As much as we would like to, very few of us have time for more than one or two hour-long yoga classes a week. I’ve found that if I can slip into a yoga pose here and there for 5-10 minutes, whenever I think of it, I can get most of the benefits of the pose even in that short time. Of course more intense poses like headstands and backbends need a bit of preparation, but favorites like Dog and Triangle are easy to do wherever you have about four feet of room.
I have been working on my abdominal strength this summer, so one pose I often drop into is Navasana, or Boat Pose. It engages the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) to lift the spine; transverse abdominis and obliques (side and back stomach muscles) to keep the chest lifted and the back long; ilipsoas (muscles that connect pelvis to thigh bones) to keep the pelvis tipped; and the rectus femoris (one of the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh) to keep the thighs lifted. It is like one, gigantic sit-up without the movement.
Give Navasana a try, using any of the modifications to make it a more effective pose for you. I guarantee pretty quick improvement, if you manage to “drop in” to the pose a couple times a day.
1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Tuck your hands under the knees and align your back by lifting the breastbone. Keep the neck long, but don’t tense the neck or the shoulders.
2. Start tipping back onto the base of your sitbones and lift your feet off the floor. Always maintain the lift of the breastbone. Find the place where you can balance on the sitbones without wobbling.
3. When you feel centered, begin to extend the knees until the calves are parallel to the floor and your thighs are about a 90-degree angle from the torso. Straighten the arms while lifting the breastbone.
*Just getting into this position may be enough for a beginning student and you should just focus on staying put and breathing, until you can hold this preparation pose without too much effort for a minute or so. *
4. To deepen the work of the torso, continue straightening the legs with the feet extended (but don’t point the toes). Keep the hands behind the knees or double your belt and wrap it behind the thighs so you can keep the torso long and the breastbone lifted as you extend.
5. Release the hands and turn the palms towards the floor. Keep lifting the breastbone, keep lifting the breastbone, keep lifting the breastbone. Don’t let the chest collapse or the lower back round toward the floor—the spine is loooong. Try to keep the breath moving evenly through the lungs, with an emphasis on longer exhales (this works the abdominal muscles even more). Try and hold the pose for a minute or two.
6. A nice release for this pose is to turn onto your tummy and lift up into Locust Pose (Salabhasana). Lie facedown, with the arms alongside the body with the palms turned up. On an inhale, lift the hands and the feet up, using the muscles of the back body so that the chest and legs come off the floor. Try to hold it for a few breaths and then relax back into the floor.
©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.