HOW TO PRACTICE Fish Pose IN YOGA (Matsyasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Fish Pose
Fish Pose (Sanskrit name: Matsyasana) is named for the Hindu God Matsya, the fish incarnation of Vishnu, as this yoga pose is said to resemble a fish. Vishnu is known as the maintainer and source of the Universe.
The traditional version of the yoga posture is practiced with Padmasana (Full Lotus Pose) legs, which is incredibly challenging for people whose hips do not easily externally rotate. Fish Pose can also be practiced with legs extended—a much more accessible version of the asana.
While the classic version of this yoga pose features the head tilted back without support, we like a supported head much better, as it allows for a much needed—for most people—opportunity to create space and an opening across the chest and shoulders, without the risk of neck strain. You’ll find lots of ways to find the perfect version of this yoga posture for your body in the Yoga 2.0 and Deepen the Pose sections.
Benefits of Fish Pose
Matsyasana is traditionally used as a counterpose for Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand Pose) as it reverses the head and neck position maintained in Shoulderstand. Fish Pose expands the chest and front of the neck. It also expands the abdomen and stimulates the abdominal organs. The supported yoga versions of Fish Pose can be a wonderful way to relieve neck and shoulder pain, especially when you add layers of cushioning at key joints. Fish Pose has both a mildly stimulating effect that can help relieve fatigue and a gentle, soothing quality to calm the nervous system.
The supported versions of Fish Pose are effective counterposes to the rest of your life. The path of least resistance in the body—especially the thoracic spine—is to bend forward and stoop, a situation that typically increases over time. This is due to both the force of gravity and the force of habit. We all spend so much time bending forward—over desks, devices, counter tops and steering wheels—that unless we actively practice spinal extension, the thoracic spine will tend to freeze in a flexed position over time.
The supported versions of Fish Pose are especially helpful because once you’ve set up your props and relaxed into the yoga pose, it’s easy to settle in and stay a while. This allows the benefits of the yoga posture to sink in deeper. With your chest gently expanded, enjoy breathing deeply and slowly, letting it flow freely for an even more calming effect.
A supported Fish Pose can be your best medicine after a day at the computer. Gather up your yoga props, settle in, and breathe deeply.
How to Practice Fish Pose
- From a supine position, bend your elbows out to the sides with your forearms angling inward. The arms should be in a “hands on hips” position with the elbows angling outward. Turn your palms to face the floor.
- Draw your forearms in toward the body as you lift the upper body off the ground. You will be supporting your torso on your forearms. Draw your elbows back so that they are underneath the shoulders.
- Ground your legs as you press your shoulder blades into the ribcage, expanding the front of your chest.
- Keep your head in a neutral position or allow your chin to flex forward, toward your chest. It’s best not to allow your head to hang backward in this yoga pose. Because it displaces the hyoid bone forward, hanging the head backward actually counteracts chest expansion. Hanging the head back can also cause dizziness or nausea in some people.
- Take a deep inhalation to puff up your chest even more. Meanwhile draw your shoulder blades down your back and press them even more firmly onto your ribcage.
- Stay for several breaths.
- To come out of Fish Pose, gently lower your spine and head to the ground. Pull your knees into your chest, rocking gently side to side. Do not come up from this asana too quickly. Take a moment to feel the effect of the pose and allow your body to release the yoga pose gently.