Yoga How-To: The Boat Pose


In this Article

  • What Is the Boat Pose?
  • What Are the Boat Pose Muscles Worked?
  • How to Do the Boat Pose
  • Boat Pose Variations
  • Boat Pose Benefits
  • Mistakes to Avoid While Doing the Boat Pose
  • Set Sail With the Boat Pose

Yoga is good for the mind and body, and you can adapt it to any skill level. 

The boat yoga pose is an engaging pose for any intermediate yogi.

What Is the Boat Pose?

The boat pose is a position that engages your core muscles. Its name comes from the shape your body makes during the pose.

You balance on your tailbone with your legs lifted up. With your arms out straight, your body makes a shape like an upside-down A or a cartoon boat.

Other names. Since yoga has a long and broad history, poses have different names in multiple languages. You may see the Sanskrit words naukasana and paripurna navasana used for boat pose.

Props you need. You’ll need basic yoga gear like appropriate clothing and a yoga mat to properly do the boat pose exercise. You can use a yoga strap or bolster to make the pose easier and to master the form.

Sequences that include the boat pose. Yoga typically occurs in sequences. You can do the boat pose in your custom sequence of poses, on its own, or as part of the Padma Sadhana sequence.

Sequences are designed for different purposes: stretching, relaxing, mindfulness, strength-building, and more. The intensity of the boat pose makes it a great pose for a strength-building sequence. 

Experience level. The boat pose is an intermediate pose. You should only attempt it if you can do basic poses like child’s pose or downward-facing dog comfortably and without strain.

What Are the Boat Pose Muscles Worked?

Core muscles. The boat pose targets the muscles commonly referred to as your core muscles. These include your pelvis, lower back, and abdomen.

Your core muscles support your stability and balance. They make it easier to play sports, do chores around the house, sit at your desk, and more.

The boat pose engages all aspects of your core muscles without overworking them. Your core muscles help maintain the pose in good form, strengthening them over time.

Arms and legs. The boat pose exercise also engages your arms and legs, specifically your upper arms (biceps and triceps) and hamstrings. The pose doesn’t strengthen the muscles as much as your core muscles but will improve muscle tone. 

Maintaining the boat poses calls for your hamstrings and upper arms to hold up your limbs. This gradually tones your arm and leg muscles over time. 

How to Do the Boat Pose

  1. You can start the boat pose supine or sitting on the floor. Starting from a supine position is more challenging. 
  2. If you’re starting in a seated position, sit with your legs straight and your knees slightly bent.
  3. Inhale, engage your back muscles, lean back slightly, and lift your legs until they create a 45-degree angle with the floor and you are balanced on your tailbone. 
  4. Keeping your back straight, lift your toes toward your forehead to straighten your legs. If this is too difficult, keep your shins parallel to the floor. 
  5. Stretch your arms to be parallel to the floor, palms facing inward, and keep your chest open. 
  6. Hold the pose for 10 to 20 seconds.

Boat Pose Variations

You can adjust the starting position to make the boat pose easier. You can also alter the final position by bending your knees to keep your shins parallel to the floor. 

You can alleviate strain and master this pose using a yoga strap or ballast. A strap can help you hold your legs in position while a ballast or firm pillow behind your back can help maintain your balance and reduce the strain on your back.

Practicing with these adaptations can help you master the basics of the form. Gradually removing the changes will increase the challenge and strengthen your abilities. 

Boat Pose Benefits

Full body awareness. The boat pose focuses on your core strength and extends to your arms and legs. Along with strengthening these muscles, the boat pose gives you a consciousness about your entire body.

Improved digestive health. Engaging your abdomen and improving the air circulation through your diaphragm activates the muscles around your abs and pelvis. These muscles stimulate your digestive system and can improve your digestive health.

Benefits of the boat pose. Since the boat pose is an intermediate pose, it can replace beginner moves in your favorite sequence. Such new challenges can keep your body engaged.

Who can benefit from boat pose? Like yoga in general, the boat pose benefits most people. Even people with a hernia or those recovering from hernia treatment can benefit from a boat pose if they’re experienced with yoga.

Mistakes to Avoid While Doing the Boat Pose

Potential discomfort, pain, or injuries. Improper form of the boat pose exercise can cause you to curve your back and compress your neck. Too much pressure can then lead to neck and back pain.

Form mistakes. The two most common mistakes involve moving too fast and curving your back. If you move too fast, you can’t focus as easily on your form and are more likely to suffer an injury. 

Allowing your back to curve can lead you to collapse your shoulders inward. The goal is to keep your chest open and back straight to prevent any unneeded tension in the activated muscles.

Who should avoid the boat pose? The boat pose is challenging and shouldn’t be attempted by people with particular health problems. You shouldn’t try boat pose without a doctor’s guidance if you have:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Severe headaches and migraines
  • Spine problems
  • Asthma
  • Chronic heart problems

Pregnant people or people in the first couple of days of their menstrual cycle shouldn’t attempt boat pose either. The tension of the abdomen can cause extra discomfort for pregnant or menstruating people. 

Set Sail With the Boat Pose

As with any yoga pose, focus on your form and stop if you feel pain while holding a pose. 

Eventually, though, mastering this challenging pose can elevate your yoga sequences to the next level. 

Show Sources


The Art of Living: “Naukasana – Boat Pose.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Essential Yoga Props To Make Your Sessions Better.”

Mayo Clinic: “Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles.”

Yoga Bear: “Boat Pose Yoga (Paripurna Navasana) – How To Do At Home?”

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