This post explores the abdominal strengthening poses urdhva prasarita padasana and paripurna navasana (boat pose). It is intended as a companion piece to the Weekly Advanced Class 19. This class can be found in the Weekly Classes section of YogaSelection. Improving abdominal strength can benefit your overall posture and balance. Stronger abdominal muscles can give extra support to your spine thus reducing the risk of injury. Regular practice of these poses can assist the development of your yoga practice as a whole.

 

URDHVA PRASARITA PADASANA

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees to your chest.
  • Place a belt around the balls of your feet and straighten your legs.
  • Hold the belt with your hands apart. It is more important that the backs of your shoulders are in contact with the floor. Less important how close your hands are to your feet.
  • Make sure that the back of your pelvis is in contact with the floor.
  • Make sure that your knees are straight. This is more important than having your legs vertical. With practice your legs will come to 90° without the back of your pelvis lifting off the floor.
  • Press your feet up into the belt. Pull the belt down and into your feet.
  • Press the backs of your shoulders down to the floor. and lift your chest upwards.
  • Remove the belt and place your wrists beside your hips with your palms facing downwards.
  • Bend your knees towards your chest keeping the back of your pelvis in contact with the floor.
  • Straighten your legs without the back of your pelvis lifting off the floor. For less flexible people this will mean having your legs angled away from your torso.
  • Press your hands and shoulders down.
  • Straighten the backs of your knees.
  • Lift your calves and inner heels upwards.
  • Press down the point where your spine and pelvis join.
  • Relax your throat.
  • Follow the same procedure as for the previous pose but with your arms extended back over your head.
  • If stiffness prevents the backs of your hands coming to the floor, then place a support underneath them and press firmly down into this support.
  • Extend your palms and armpits away from your pelvis, and draw your shoulder sockets back towards your pelvis.
  • Keep extending your fingers as you straighten your legs.
  • Grip your kneecaps and open the backs of your knees.
  • Keep the four corners of your feet open.
  • Press the region where your spine and pelvis join firmly into the floor.
  • Check that your breath is steady and even.

 

  • Using the previous pose as a starting position lower your legs to 60° and pause, then lower to 30° and pause, then lower the legs all the way to the floor.
  • Maintain the actions described in the previous poses as your legs are lowered.
  • Ensure that your back waist is pressing down into the floor.
  • If any discomfort is felt in your lower back as your legs approach 30° then bend your knees. Otherwise keep your legs straight as they come all the way to the floor.
  • Aim to complete three cycles of lowering your legs this way.
  • Now raise and lower your legs in one continuous action.
  • Start with your legs at 90° and lower the legs almost to the floor, and then raise your legs back up again to complete one cycle.
  • Keep your knees straight throughout.
  • Synchronise the movements of your legs with your breath. Try exhaling as you lower the legs, inhaling whilst raising your legs, then vice versa.
  • Aim to complete at least three to five cycles.

 

PARIPURNA NAVASANA

This first stage of Paripurna Navasana keeps your hands to the floor behind your pelvis.

  • Sit with your legs bent, knees together and feet flat to the floor.
  • Place your fingertips to the floor behind.
  • Bend your elbows and lean back so that your feet come off the floor.
  • Bring your knees in towards your chest.
  • Press your fingertips down. Lift your back waist. Lift your chest.
  • Without your knees moving away from your chest straighten your legs.
  • Straighten the backs of your knees, extend your inner heels away from you.
  • Ensure that when seen from the side, your feet are raised higher than the top of your head.
This second stage of Paripurna Navasana keeps your fingertips to the floor but brings your hands forwards of the pelvis.

  • Using the previous pose as a starting position, walk one hand at a time forwards.
  • Press your hands down into the floor and lift your back waist.
  • Press your hands down into the floor and lift your chest.
  • Grip your kneecaps.
  • Keep the four corners of your feet open
In the third and final stage of Paripurna Navasana your hands are brought off the floor.

  • Consolidate the actions from the previous pose.
  • Bring your hands to the floor in front of your pelvis and press your hands down in order to lift your chest and waist up.
  • Maintain this lift as you bring your hands off the floor.
  • Bring your arms parallel to the floor with your palms facing one another.
  • Extend into your fingertips.
  • Lift your chest without your shoulders pushing up towards your ears.

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