5 Simple Boat Pose Variations for Perfect Abs

Basic Boat pose or Navasana is known as a powerful exercise for core muscles. And when you’re a beginner, you’ll start doing it in a static variation, like holding the chosen form for some time.

With time muscles get stronger, and you get bored doing Boat pose the same way every day. But wait, here’s the list of some easy Boat pose modifications to spice up your practice. Using these variations of the Boat pose, you strengthen abs, back, and hip flexors too.

Let’s see how to get all out of your Boat pose!

Yoga for Abs: 5 Boat Pose Variations

Boat Pose to Start With

Practice Boat pose with feet flat on the floor and fingertips touching the mat. On the exhale, lean your torso back until you feel your abs are actively contracting. Sometimes abs and/or leg muscles begin to burn or even tremble in this pose.

Here are a few points to watch out for:

  • The base. Forget concentrating on how to lift your legs off the floor. That’s not what you are looking for in the Boat pose as a beginner. Instead, first properly root your sit bones into the mat. Then, press through the tops of your thigh bones to get more stability in the pose. And finally, check that your tailbone is not scooped under: roll your buttocks back a little.
  • The back. First few breaths, your back may be ok. But if you stay longer, you notice that the lower back sags, and the spine creates the C-shape. Not good! To fix this, either reduce the hold duration or push your chest forward by pulling shoulder blades together to open the chest more. Expand the ribcage.
  • The face. Yep, that’s right! Your face shouldn’t be doing the Boat pose. Many students focus so much on the holding that they tend to stain the neck, throat, and facial muscles. Avoid doing that and use your attention to relax the upper parts of the body and lengthen through the neck and head crown.

Use a Trick to Activate Hip Flexion

Boat pose is said to be all about abs. For sure, this group of muscles will get their load in this asana. However, the key to the correct shape is your hip flexors – the muscles that allow you to pull legs closer to the belly (psoas major, iliacus, and thigh adductors). A simple yoga block is what you need to really feel that move.

Quick 5-Minute Ab Workout At Home

Before you lift your legs, squeeze the block between your thighs (as the picture shows). Holding another block with your hands is optional.

Get Low with Boat Pose

When your abs have already got that neat look and are strong enough, use Low Boat pose to challenge your muscles. This variation requires more strength, balance, and concentration. So, how do you do a low boat pose?

Start in a basic Boat pose’s accessible modification: with straight or bent legs. From there, as you exhale, begin to lower your legs and back so that they are hovering above the mat. Your legs are to stay around 6 inches above the floor. And your neck and shoulder are off the mat. Thus, the body creates one line from head to toes.

Hold your arms alongside the body with palms slightly turned to the ceiling. Gaze up and try to keep your throat open and neck long.

Photo from www.popworkouts.com

To get out of the pose, lift your body back to the basic boat pose. To develop your practice from this point, incorporate sets of 3-5 and more repetitions of this pose and the transition.

And, of course, this exercise quickly turns into a small dynamic set if you do it without holding the pose.

Tip: when in the Low Boat pose, draw your belly in and don’t hold your breath.

Move It!

Thinking about how can I improve my boat pose, remember you can always add more dynamic into the Boat pose. We suggest using the below modifications for intermediate and advanced yogis.

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Boat Pose Pulses

To make your abs burn, use Boat pulses. They are fast; they are hot and adequate.

Start with 3-5 pulses and make several rounds of that set. But, try not to over-work this position. If you start too fast, your abs may be sore the next day. This is a signal to go slowly and increase the load gradually as long as it feels good for you.

Dynamic Boat Pose Crunches and Twists

After the Low Boat pose is no longer a challenge, try crunches. Crunch is a typical exercise used to get those six-pack abs. It specifically targets the abdominal muscles: rectus obdominis, for example. Twists work more to strengthen external abdominal obliques – muscles on the sides of your body.

Depending on your goals, you can incorporate crunches or twists solely into your Boat pose. Or, you can mix it all for a fantastic abs shape.
The positions’ variety here is impressive, just have a look at the sets offered at Alo Moves sets offered at Alo Moves[1] and pick your fav way to do Boat Pose crunches.

Is Full Boat Pose a Final Limit?

Full Boat pose is already an intense exercise for your abdominal muscles. But after all these crunches and twists, can good old Full boat pose surprise you? I’d say yes, it can!
Here are some ways to modify the full pose that help your belly benefit from it.

Big Toes Boat Pose

This one starts in a Butterfly pose. First, grab your big toes with index and thumbs and lift the knees off the mat. Next, find the balance on your sit bones (you may want to take out the buttocks’ flesh before starting). When the balance is there, lift your feet, straighten your legs, stretch the hamstrings, and flex your feet.

Photo from www.yogiapproved.com
Photo from www.yogiapproved.com

Or try doing the same with legs spread wide to the side. This option requires more balancing skills, so use the wall next to you for support.

Half Lotus Boat pose

This is not such a simple variation, to be honest. Still, if you’re up for some hurdle, this will be an excellent modification. We’d recommend this one to be practiced with caution if you have knee injuries. Also, half-lotus puts pressure on the knee joint, so you should be an advanced practitioner to perform this one. Alternatively, do it under the guidance of a professional yoga teacher.

Yoga for Balance Practice

Begin from Staff pose. First, bend your right knee and place your sole on the left hip. Next, reach your right hand behind the back and grab the big toe of your right foot.

Next, bend your left leg and grab the big toe on the left leg with the index and thumb of your left hand. Find the balance on your sit bones, and only after that extend the left leg up to the ceiling.

Photo from www.yogiapproved.com


  1. Alo Moves Blog. Examples of dynamic Boat pose exercises 


Stephanie started her yoga journey back in 2018 in an Ashtanga class. She likes to experiment and try new challenging postures and yoga tricks. When off the mat, sharing yoga lifehacks is another thing to do. She believes that energy settled in a safe and physically correct form can make you feel better not only in your body but deep inside your soul too.