How to build strength and stability in yoga poses in Boat Pose (Navasana)

5 Strength Building Yoga Poses to Create Stability

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Updated: 
November 18, 2020

We hear about flexibility a lot in yoga. Many people who have never practiced yoga say that they cannot practice because they can’t even touch their toes. A quick scroll through a yoga hashtag on Instagram will show endless postures showcasing flexibility from splits to backbends. 

And while flexibility is a major part of yoga, it really is only one piece of the puzzle of the physical asana practice. What we don’t often hear emphasized in yoga is stability. But stability is crucial to our overall health and wellness and the optimal functioning of our joints. 

If we only work to create flexibility, we compromise stability. And overly mobile joints without the corresponding strength to support and coordinate them could potentially lead to injury. 

So in our asana practice, stability is equally as important (if not more so!) than flexibility. 

How to Stabilize Your Joints with 5 Strengthening Yoga Poses

The following is a select sample of yoga poses that work to build strength in different areas of the body to create a more balanced and stable system in your body as a whole. 

1. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)

Yoga student practicing Plank Pose (Phalakasana) to strengthen and stabilize joints

A foundational yoga posture, Plank Pose builds strength and stability in the full body. 

  1. Start in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Spread your fingers wide and space them evenly apart. Root down into the perimeter of your palms and grip at the mat with your fingertips. 

  2. Roll your weight forward to align your shoulders over your wrists, and create a long plumb line in your body from the crown of your head down through your heels. 

  3. Press your heels toward the back of your mat and energetically squeeze your legs in toward the midline of your body. 

  4. Draw your frontal hip points toward each other as if tightening a drawstring around your hips and corset around your whole waistline, cinching into the midline of your body. Suction your navel in toward your spine and up toward your ribcage. 

  5. Press down firmly into your palms and hug your upper arm bones in toward your shoulder sockets. Ever so slightly, round your upper back to draw your shoulder blades slightly apart from each other to stabilize your shoulder girdle. 

  6. Gaze down toward the floor and lengthen the back of your neck so that your head stays in line with the rest of your spine. 

  7. Pause and hold here for a few long, deep breaths. 

2. Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)

Yoga practice tips for Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) for building strength and stability in the core

Another great posture to build strength and stability, Side Plank Pose challenges your shoulder girdle, core, and back muscles even more than Plank. 

  1. Start in a strongly activated Plank Pose.

  2. Pour your weight into your right hand and roll to the pinky toe side of your right foot and the big toe side of your left foot. 

  3. Spin your chest and torso to face toward the left side of your mat and sweep your left arm toward the sky. 

  4. Root down into your right hand and plug your upper arm bone into your shoulder socket. 

  5. Lift your right side body and hips up away from the floor as you resist the force of gravity pushing down against your weight. 

  6. If you feel stable, you may wish to stack your left foot over your right. 

  7. Stabilize your body and breath for a few deep inhalations and exhalations before releasing and switching sides. 

3. High Crescent Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)

Yoga student practicing High Crescent Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana) for balance and strength in the core and legs

This stabilizing posture builds strength in the legs and core and helps to establish balance. 

  1. Start in Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana). 

  2. Lift your right leg to the sky and step your foot forward and through and place it next to your right thumb. 

  3. Ground down into the tripod base of your foot. Root down into the mounds beneath your big toe and pinky toe and into your heel. 

  4. Bend your right knee deeply. 

  5. Energetically squeeze your legs toward each other (both front to back and side to side) to create stability in your base. 

  6. Once you feel stable, cinch in around your waistline and press the floor away to lift your torso up and sweep your arms overhead. 

  7. Elongate your whole spine. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and stretch the crown of your head toward the sky. Telescope your ribs up toward the ceiling and knit your lower ribs in toward your spine. 

  8. Stabilize here for a few long, deep breaths before switching sides. 

4. Warrior III Pose (Virabhadrasana III)

How to practice Warrior III Pose (Virabhadrasana III) to challenge your legs and core and increase balance

Another balance posture, Warrior III challenges your legs and core to stabilize you in the shape. 

  1. Start in a stable High Crescent Lunge with your right leg forward. 

  2. Draw your hands to your hips and keep your core active as you lean your torso forward to hover just above your front thigh. 

  3. Root down firmly into your right leg and continue to lean the weight of your torso forward until your back leg becomes light and lifts from the floor. 

  4. Energize your left leg and kick back firmly through your heel. Straighten it as much as you can and strive to lift your back leg to the height of your hips. 

  5. Square your hips to the floor by internally rotating your left thigh to turn your toes to face toward the floor.

  6. Elongate the crown of your head forward toward the top of your mat and use the same amount of energy to kick back through your left heel. 

  7. Straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can and ground down into your right foot for stability. 

  8. If you feel comfortable, you can stretch your arms forward in front of you alongside your head. 

  9. Hold for a few long, deep breaths before switching sides. 

5. Boat Pose (Navasana)

Yoga student practicing Boat Pose (Navasana) to build core and leg strength and establish stability for other postures

An excellent posture to build core and leg strength, Boat Pose helps to build the foundation of stability needed for so many other postures. 

  1. Start seated on your sit bones with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. 

  2. Catch hold behind your knees with your hands and lean your weight back slightly to really balance on your sit bones. 

  3. Elongate your spine by reaching your tailbone toward the floor and stretching the crown of your head to the sky. 

  4. Keep the length in your spine as you lift one foot off the floor and raise it to the height of your knee.

  5. Either stay here and alternate lifting one foot at a time or lift both feet simultaneously and align your shins parallel to the floor. Squeeze your legs into the midline of your body and activate your feet by flexing your ankles and pressing out through the balls of your feet. 

  6. Activate your core strongly. Three-dimensionally cinch in around your waistline and hug your navel in and up. Ever so slightly, press your chest forward toward your thighs to broaden your collarbones.

  7. If you feel stable, you may wish to straighten your legs toward the sky while maintaining the length you created in your spine. 

  8. Hold for a few long, deep breaths before releasing. 

Stability Is Essential for Your Yoga Practice

While flexibility may get the spotlight for many aspects of the yoga practice, stability really deserves the limelight because of its essential nature in your practice. Practice the above postures, or any other strength-building poses that you enjoy, to create a solid foundation of stability in your practice. Your body will thank you in the long run, and you’ll likely be surprised by how much strength and stability can affect your asana practice for the better as well. 

 

Dr. Suzanne Martin, Dr. of Physical Therapy, YogaUOnline Presenter, Yoga for Scoliosis

 

Leah SugermanLeah 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 www.leahsugerman.com.