Learning to set sail into a strong, well-aligned, and stable boat pose requires us to bring this nautical metaphor into action. Imagine that your sitting bones are anchors you have set deep into the floor below you and the earth below that. Now from that anchor, lengthen the mast of your torso feeling co-contraction and support from both the front and back body. Imagine that your limbs are the sails, and keep the outer body active, yet light. Now how do we add power to this pose? Let your breath be the wind that keeps the sails filled!
Imagine that your sitting bones are anchors you have set deep into the floor below you and the earth below that.
Ready to set sail? Here are four variations to try.
Start with your knees bent, feet to the mat, and lower down onto one forearm at a time, stacking elbows directly under shoulders.
Press your palms down actively to broaden your collarbones apart and open your chest.
Hug your knees together until the inner feet connect, and point your toes so they are tapping the floor.
With control lift your shins parallel to the floor—you can either stay here, working on toe taps back and forth, or extend the legs out toward a 45 degree angle.
Start with your knees bent, toes pointed strongly pressing down into the mat and fingertips tented by either side of your waist. ("Tented fingers" means just the tips of the fingers are in contact with the mat while the center of the hand is suction cupped up.)
Feel your sitting bones beneath you, being mindful to stay upright through these next three poses; avoid tipping back onto your sacrum.
Place your hands around your legs so the fingers now find the inner thighs; peel the inner thighs forward (internal rotation).
As you exhale, moving from your deep core, lift one leg parallel to the floor at a time.
Start with your knees bent, heels down this time, toes lifted and spread and wide apart.
Take your left peace sign fingers (first and second finger) and wrap them around your left big toe. (Note that a strap can be used here by placing it around the ball of the foot to provide more space in this pose.)
Place your right hand around your right heel and point your right foot. Now inhale and lengthen through your spine. On an exhale extend the left leg straight as you now flex the left foot.
Start with your knees bent, heels down, toes up and wide apart. Take your peace sign fingers and wrap them around your big toes. (Modify with a strap as needed.)
Keeping the outer belly muscles (rectus abdominis) free of grip, begin to extend your legs straight to the best of your ability.
It is essential here to stay on your sitting bones and to maintain a neutral spine. (If you tip back to your tailbone or sacrum it means you have gone too far; back up one step, hold, and breath.)
Press the heads of the femurs (thigh bones) down toward the floor to help anchor your sitting bones and stabilize the pose. Keeping this, lift your sternum skyward creating length in your spine. Lastly, using bicep strength, draw your elbows in toward the midline of your body and notice the release at the tops of your shoulders.
Let your breath bring wind into your sails and soar here in boat pose for six full, deep, balanced breaths!