A few weeks ago I asked for content ideas from my community online. One of my Patrons, Deb, asked me for help. Why can’t I straighten my legs in boat pose? She asks! Well it could simply be a matter of strength. Boat pose with straight legs has a lot going on. Strength, flexibility and balance.
For those unfamilar here is a post on how to do boat pose, and I also have video on YouTube. Boat pose is a really interesting pose I want to explore more indepth today. This post also has a video which you can view below.
Why can’t i straighten my legs in boat pose? Hold low boat!
As I mentioned, I covered the basics of boat pose already, but sit in your low or half boat pose position. Knees bent, and shins parallel to the floor. Pull the navel to the spine and lean back lifting the feet away from the floor. Keep the knees bent.
Can you reach the arms forward? Or, do you have to keep hold of the legs? How long can you hold low/half boat? Work up towards holding for 45 seconds. Then, try including some of the exercises below.
The second way to work towards straight leg boat pose is the single leg lift in dandasana. Sit, with legs extended and hands connected to the floor. Slightly tuck the pelvis. And, keeping the torso tall lift one leg away from the floor. Lower, and repeat with the other leg. Aim for 8-12 repetitions each leg. Working up to 2 sets.
Some key points in this exercise are to ensure the torso stays upright. Remember, your head, heart, and hips all in alignment. Two common errors
On the left the torso is rounding. It’s almost like you’re trying to headbutt the knee. Don’t! On the right the torso is leaning back to pull the leg off the floor. When you ask “why can’t I straighten my legs in boat pose?”, well this is your main test! If the torso leans back your leveraging gravity, and not using the hip flexor/quad.
Dandasana Double Leg Lift
Once you can do 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions in Dandasana scissor then progress to double leg lift. Sitting in the same position, legs extended. The hands might rest on blocks if the floor seems too much of a reach. Can you lift both legs up? Notice if one lifts higher than the other!
Key Points here are the same as single leg lifting. Try not to move the torso. No head-butting the legs or leaning back. This exercise is a tough one build up the endurance slowly. Listen to your body!
Split Boat Progression
This is a progression of low boat pose. Hold low boat (again ensure you’ve worked up to this). Straighten one leg keeping the thighs parallel to one another. Hold for a breath, then re-bend the knee.
Repeat, alternating the legs. The key point here is not to rush. Extend one leg and BREATHE. If you want to work a little easier support the bent leg by holding with the hand. Then work up to no hands.
Extended Leg Boat with support
Now you should be ready to work on full boat pose with support. So take low boat, and have the hands support the legs. Extend the legs. Keep the hands under the thighs for support in full boat. Then just release one hand and take a breath. Replace, and repeat with the other hand.
This variation means you’re almost there! Work on doing this hand breath switch for 8-12 breaths each side. Then you’ll be ready to work on time.
Full Boat Pose Holds
Once you’ve worked through all the exercises above you should be able to hold full boat pose! Now it’s just a matter of building time in the pose. This is where you take the pose and breathe!
Breathe, and hold the pose for 3 breaths. Rest, and repeat. Perhaps adding a breath every few days until you can hold for 5-10 breaths. Alternatively, you can time yourself!
There are so many reasons behind the plea of “I can’t straighten my legs in boat pose!”. But, the main one is lack of stretch/endurance in the abs, hip flexors, and quads. Build up gradually. Start from the top down. Play with reps, sets, and holds. Don’t rush! And remember to stretch the quads out afterwards!
Enjoy the journey!
- Can you do “full” boat pose?
- Do you have a strong core?
- What do you prefer – reps or timed holds?