Two Totally Unique Versions of Navasana (Boat Pose)

Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana) is a challenging yoga pose that creates core strength, hamstring flexibility, and many other health benefits. However, it can be challenging to begin practicing Boat Pose if you don’t already have a strong core and flexible hamstrings. Modifications and variations can be helpful in any yoga pose, but they can be especially helpful in postures like Boat Pose to help practitioners feel the sensations needed to create the shape and build the necessary strength to practice the pose without having to tax their bodies unnecessarily. Here are two unique versions of boat pose.

Try These 2 Boat Pose Variations to Build Strength and Flexibility:

These variations help to prepare you for full Boat Pose, but they’re also wonderful poses in their own right to build core strength and hamstring flexibility. For these variations, you’ll need a yoga strap and a folding chair.

Warm-Up: Supta Padangusthasana

This posture is excellent for warming up the hamstrings to prepare for Boat Pose.


Warming up the Hamstrings in preparation for Boat Pose (Navasana)

To practice:

  1. Lie down on your back with your strap nearby.
  2. Bend both of your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Draw your right knee into your chest and loop your strap around the ball of your right foot.
  4. Stretch and extend your right leg up toward the sky as far as you comfortably can until you feel a moderate stretch in the back of your right leg.
  5. Lengthen both sides of your waistline. 
  6. Hug your thigh bone in toward your hip socket and simultaneously, press out through the ball of your right foot. Extend your leg in opposite directions.
  7. You may wish to keep your left knee bent or you can straighten and extend your left leg down to the floor.
  8. Soften your shoulders and your lower back and hold for a few deep breaths.
  9. When you’re ready, release and repeat the same actions on the opposite side.

Now you’re ready to try our two unique versions of boat pose. 

Boat Pose Variation 1

This version of Boat Pose utilizes a strap to fully support your core, so you can focus more on the structure, shape, and form of the posture rather than on your burning core!

Boat Pose (Navasana) with the support if a yoga strap, Boat Pose Variation

How to Practice Beginner Modification of Yoga’s Boat Pose

  1. Make a wide loop with your yoga strap and sit down on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the mat.
  2. Place the strap over your head and slide it up right underneath your armpits.
  3. Take the other end of the strap and step your feet through it so you can loop the strap underneath your knees.
  4. Tighten the strap as much as you need until you feel like you can lean back into it and the strap will hold the weight of your body up.
  5. Integrate and activate your core. Imagine tightening a corset around your whole waistline and hug your belly button in toward your spine and up toward your rib cage. 
  6. Then, lean into your strap, press down into your sit bones, and lift the weight of your spine up away from the mat.
  7. Lift your feet off the floor and draw your shins roughly parallel to the mat.
  8. Draw your chest toward your thighs and your thighs toward your chest.
  9. You may wish to hold behind your knees or stretch your arms forward to frame out your knees.
  10. You may wish to lift one or both legs at a time to stretch your feet up toward the sky.
  11. Hold for a few deep breaths before slowly releasing. 

Boat Pose Variation 2

This version of Boat Pose strongly activates your core without the need to have a lot of mobility in your hamstrings.

A Boat Pose (Navasana)Variation with chair support for this variation

How to Practice Chair Modification of Yoga’s Boat Pose

  1. Sit at the very edge of your folding chair and lift and lengthen your whole spine.
  2. Activate your core firmly.
  3. Straighten and extend your right leg forward and release your heel to the mat.
  4. Hinge and lean your torso back as far as you comfortably can while maintaining length in your spine so that you load your core with this new weight.
  5. Resist gravity by maintaining length in your spine.
  6. You can stay as you are or lift your right foot to hover off the floor and maybe reach your right arm up overhead to stretch toward the sky. 
  7. Hold for a few deep breaths before releasing back to neutral and switching sides.

The Power of Variations

Variations are not only beautiful substitutes for challenging postures, but they can also be used as challenging postures in their own right! 

Practicing with props can sometimes lighten the load of your practice and it can sometimes increase the intensity. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses in different places so one practitioner may find the classic variation of Boat Pose easier than a variation using props, while another finds the opposite to be true.

Variability in our practice is healthy for our bodies and minds and variations of postures are not only fun to play with, but can also make certain poses more accessible for certain populations. So have fun playing with these two unique versions of boat pose. And who knows—you might find them to be more accessible than Navasana, or you might find them to be more challenging, too!


Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP, yoga writer

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit

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