Navasana: The Original Core Strengthener
Navasana is a classic core-strengthening exercise. Before learning yoga, I had done Navasana numerous times. We did it in dance, gym class, and even in Pilates.
In my opinion, Joseph Pilates borrowed heavily from Navasana when he created The Hundred. In fact, I have seen a variation of The Hundred where you begin in Navasana and add the breathing and arm movement of The Hundred. I have also seen a variation of Navasana where you begin on your back, lift to Ab Prep, reach your legs out, and hold while using ujjayi breathing.
Today, though, we’ll talk about how to correctly do a basic Navasana. This pose is fabulous because it’s accessible for all fitness levels. With so many appropriate modifications, it’s no wonder this yoga pose is so popular.
- We will be using ujjayi breathing.
- Begin seated with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Feel your SITs bones press into the mat beneath you and lengthen through the top of your head. Make sure that the muscles in the front of your hips (especially your psoas) are relaxed. If these muscles get grippy, you will end up feeling pain in your sacrum (tailbone).
- You may place your hands behind your thighs or reach them so that they are parallel to the ground.
- Inhale to lengthen.
- As you exhale, slightly tilt your pelvis so that you are now sitting just behind your SITs bones. Your belly button should really be drawing toward your spine, and you should really feel your abdominals working.
- If this is a good starting point for you, stop here. Otherwise, inhale to lift one leg to table top and exhale to lift the other.
- Again, if this is a good starting point for you, stay here. Otherwise, engage your quadriceps to lengthen your legs.
- If your hands are behind your legs, the next step is to reach your arm by your sides.
- Inhale and exhale through your nose for 5-10 breaths.
- To finish, return your hands to behind your thighs, bend your knees, set one foot down, then the other, and return your pelvis to neutral.
- Take a moment to stretch the spine forward by allowing your body to drape over your bent legs.
- Do 2 or 3 of these before moving on to the next pose.
Modifications for Navasana
As I mentioned before, you can really stop at any point in the directions and make that your Navasana for today. All phases of this pose encourage your abdominals to work, so you get a great challenge no matter how you set up for this pose.
A simple modification for people with tight shoulders is to turn your hands palm up instead of palm down. This movement will help broaden your collarbones and open your chest. By having an open chest, you will be more likely to stay in the pose for longer than if your shoulders round forward and encourage your body to collapse.
One modification that I haven’t mentioned yet is using a block. If you have issues keeping your abdominals engaged throughout the pose or if your inner thighs have trouble meeting, place a block between your thighs. In 75-80% of people, adductor activation increases abdominal activation. This means that by using your inner thighs, your abs may kick in and work harder.
You can use the block in any of the steps. However, if you’re going to use it, make sure to get it placed at the very beginning. The block should be in place before you even tilt your pelvis.
Here’s a video for visual learners.
Navasana is a classic core strength builder. What is your favorite core-strengthening exercise? Let us know in the comments below.
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