Balancing, twisting, shoulders and abs…
… this is the promise of the Half Balancing Boat pose. The balance is a little tricky, but it enhances the abdominal value of the pose. Try it:
2. While leaning forward, wrap your right arm around the front of your right shin. Bend the elbow so as to roll your right shoulder back. Reach your left arm behind you and clasp a wrist.
Or, if your shoulder-rotation range of motion doesn’t allow for grabbing the wrist, then…
2A. Take a strap or belt and use it to bridge the distance between the two hands, as pictured here.
3. Now, lean back, raising your right foot off the ground. Keep the same binding position for your hands. Keep leaning farther back until it’s feasible to extend your left leg…
4. Lean back and raise the left leg at an angle to the floor. Note that both the right foot and the left leg are raised and you’re balancing on your sitting bones. Engage strongly through your abdominals to keep your back straight and your balance in place. Take 5 slow breaths in this position, and then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Fantastic shoulder opener, back strengthener, reasonable abdominal strengthener and the balance points are off the charts. Then again, I may be the only person who assigns points on a balance chart.
Avoid if: Obviously, if you have any issues with lower back constriction (and you’ll know it if it hurts in this position), then you might want to go only as far as step 3, without actually extending the other leg. If your ability to wrap the arm around the front of the shin (and revolve the shoulder in) is limited to the point that using the strap doesn’t make it more comfortable, you might want to skip the entire position.
Final thoughts: This pose begs the question which can become your koan for today. (A koan is a Zen approach to confusing the mind into a meditative state. The classical example is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”) Our yoga-posture inspired Zen koan for today (asked preferably while you’re in the last step of the position) is: “Is this a boat that half-balances or is one half of a balancing boat?”
I know, I know. I shouldn’t quit my day job yet to write Zen koans.