Week 1 – Meeting the Posture
Boat pose or as it is know in Sanskrit: Navasana
As we continue working our way through some foundational postures this month we will focus on building core strength….this is going to seriously benefit your WHOLE practice…core is super important in yoga. Especially if you want to keep challenging yourself with more and more difficult postures like inversions and arm balances, building up your core strength is key for these more advanced poses.
I chose boat pose for this month since there are so many variations…making it super accessible to anyone at any level. Yoga is always adaptable to ANY body meaning everyone can find benefit to time spent on their mat. Beginner or old pro there is a version of this posture that will challenge you.
So now what are we doing all month? Ok so here is the plan for the challenge….
Day 1 – Take a photo of yourself in the pose, (that is mine ^^ up there) you can share or not, totally up to you, but this will help you get a visual of yourself in the posture so you can see what the shape looks like in your body and where you might need to adjust it. Remember we have a hard time really knowing where we are in space so the photo lets you have the view of the teacher, and now we can start to dissect the pose and find the best version of this shape in your body. After you’ve practiced the pose, and checked out your photo, jot down your goals for the pose along with anything else that comes up, was it hard/easy, did you love/hate it, no rules here just a quick jot of whatever comes up.
Everyday for the rest of the month commit to practicing this pose. It doesn’t need to be a full yoga practice, just give yourself a little warm up and stretch, remember to be nice to the body and to listen. Then for the pose of the month (or POTM for short) allow yourself a few breaths to settle in and find the shape, once you come to stillness hold the pose for 5 slow, even, deep breaths. Come down and allow for a moment of pause before jumping up – think mini savasana – settle the body – and that’s it!! Now pat yourself on the back for committing to your practice today! I encourage you to take the time to jot a note everyday and track your journey but that may not work for you, and that’s ok, make this your journey.
In the week one video I give some suggestions of how to warm up and cool down….to prep the body for this posture a few rounds of cat/cow followed by a few sun salutations (modified or full version) will build some heat and get the muscles ready to go for your POTM…follow it up with a few breaths in bound angle or baddha konasana…if you have time always let yourself enjoy some savasana time!
My goal here is less about getting better at the pose and more about the journey of the pose throughout the 30 days. No doubt we will improve a posture by practicing everyday, but the practice of yoga is less about the shapes we make in the body and more about what comes up during those shapes. I encourage you to take this time to connect to your body, your mind and your practice in a deeper or at least different way. I am looking forward to taking this journey along with you.
Here is today’s mini practice introducing this month’s challenge….don’t forget to join the Facebook Group if you want to catch these classes live!
Week 2 – Why Should I?
So… we know that yoga is good for us, and we know that we usually feel better after spending some time on the mat, but do you know why? If we are going to spend time every month practicing a posture let’s take a minute and start to get to know it a little better…..
Core strength is at…well the core..of our yoga practice…building these muscles will help us advance our practice as well as help keep our bodies healthy and working throughout life. Boat pose has tons of variations making it accessible to everyone as a great core builder. The other physical benefits we gain while practicing this posture help the lower back and gets the body ready for more advanced postures like arm balances and inversions.
The benefits of this pose go far beyond just strength building. Internally this pose is helping us with digestion, and activates our kidneys and thyroid. Mentally it helps us improve our focus, relieve stress and improves our relationship with our breath.
What have you noticed in your body so far practicing this posture? Today in our mini class we practiced plank pose which is also another great core builder and looked at some other variations to keep our practice interesting.
Week 3 – Pitfalls and Modifications
As much benefit as we can gain from our yoga practice, we have just as much chance to injure ourselves if we are not being mindful of the body in the poses. We can push our flexibility to improve and gain strength in more difficult poses, but we do all have some structural limitations and our bodies are not built to move in some ways. This is why our teachers give so many alignment cues for poses to help us with a few things: finding our body in space; learning to manipulate the body safely while maintaining alignment; and helping us to adapt the pose for our body and our practice level in that moment. Very often in class I speak about knowing the direction we are headed even if we arent there yet, the directions let us guide our body safely towards the way we want to go while allowing for the time needed to travel there.
Honoring our bodies is the number one most important thing to remember when you show up to the mat. Our ego getting the best of us is often what leads to injury, we see another student or the teacher taking a pose further than we should and we want to do it to. I think we all go through this in yoga, becoming aware of this ego takeover can allow you to start to drop the ego and focus on your own practice. For a long time I refused props in class not wanting to be the fat girl in class and need help, wanting to show everyone that I can do it! Man am I glad I realized that props are amazing and that no one else cares what I am doing, if anything they are thinking similar thoughts…look at that person I wish I was like them…chasing that ego around the room totally focused on themselves just like I was. (This is true in life off the mat too btw!)
It is easy to find ourselves stuck in a rut of bad habits in our practice if we never take the time to really learn the foundations of the poses, if we just look at the shapes people are making with their bodies we miss out on what the body is actually supposed to be doing. When we have these foundations and alignment cues we can make the pose work for us rather than trying to force our body into a shape we think it should be in, this is often how we end up injured or maybe just not enjoying the practice because we think we cant do it. For boat pose this month here are some things to keep in mind…
- Rounding the upper back/collapsing the chest – Taking photos or practicing in front of a mirror will be helpful in this pose, we may not even realize some of our misalignments until we have a birds eye view of our body in the pose….when the upper back is rounding or the chest is collapsing we want to engage the core and plug those shoulders back…think tadasana (mountain pose) pull those shoulder blades together letting the heart shine forward. Try using a strap here or placing the feet against a wall to help you focus on the upper bodies alignment.
- Rounding the lower back – When the core isn’t fully engaged the belly gets loose and you end up kind of sticking your butt out putting too much stress on the low back to keep you in the pose. We want to engage the core and lengthen the spine to find that nice flat back in this posture. Practicing other core strengthening poses like planks, or the first modification of just lifting the legs will help us develop the strength we need to maintain this posture.
Check out this weeks video to see some of the modifications that will help you as you work on this posture…..
Week 4 – Variety is the spice of life
One of the things I love most about yoga is that it is for ANY body. Where there is a will there is a way, and a pose can always be modified to work for you. When we think of modifications or variations of a pose we often think first of making a pose easier or more accessible, and that is part of it, but as our practice advances and grows we can also use variations to challenge us and take our practice further.
Throughout the month we have look at several different modifications that help us practice the pose safely, focusing on building strength and keeping proper alignment in the pose. By looking back at each week’s video you can see we worked on a few different levels of the pose: starting with just legs and building the muscles in the lower core, modifications with bent legs and the arms holding the legs and arms outstretched, straight legs; as well as some variations using props: like a strap around the feet, holding the toes with straight legs (yogi toe lock), a block between the shins to work that alignment in the legs, and even propping the feet up against a wall to help with the balance in the posture. All these variations help keep our practice interesting and work on building different muscle groups that will aid us in this pose and beyond in our practice.
But like I mentioned sometimes we add additional variations to keep pushing ourselves even beyond the “full” version of a posture. Boat pose is no exception and there are definitely a few ways to continue challenging ourselves as we progress on our yoga journey. We can create some movement by playing with the legs and moving from full (straight legs) to half (bent legs) to low (legs hover) – this will really work that core!! We can add some twisting to the pose, bent legs or straight keeping the proper alignment in the legs while twisting through the upper body will create some heat! And remember that block between the legs we talked about that being great for finding proper alignment but by squeezing that block we are also working the core a little more — double benefit!
We have a bonus 5th Friday this month so next week in our mini class we will practice some of these added challenges and then we get a week off before we kick start the August challenge.