Fish Pose (Matsyasana) - Yoga Journal

Fish Pose

It is said that if you perform the fish pose in water, you will be able to float like a fish.

How to say Matsya in Sanskrit

matsya = fish

Fish Pose Step-by-Step Instructions

Chris Dougherty

Chris Dougherty

  1. Begin on the back with the knees bent and the feet planted beneath the knees
  2. Place the feet hips distance apart and parallel, with the knees also hips distance apart
  3. Spin the inner thighs down towards the floor to broaden across the lower back
  4. Pressing down with the feet, lift the hips without letting the knees splay apart
  5. Place the hands on the floor palms down with the thumbs touching, then lower the buttocks onto the hands
  6. One foot at a time, slide the feet forward so that the legs are straight
  7. Have the big toes touching and a very small amount of space between the heels
  8. Press forward with the big toe mounds to engage the quadriceps
  9. Continue to spine the inner thighs down so that the legs remain neutral
  10. Tuck the outer shoulders under, pinning the elbows into the midline
  11. Pressing down from the palms to the elbows, inflate the upper body by lifting the shoulder blades and thoracic spine into the chest
  12. Amplify these actions to lift the sternum towards the ceiling, then drop the head back and lower onto the crown of the head
  13. Engage the upper back muscles to open and support the chest from behind
  14. Prioritize the lift of the chest so that the curve of the neck is a continuation of the curve of the upper back
  15. Maintain active, neutral legs by pressing into the big toe mounds and descending the femurs
  16. Continue to press down firmly with the palms and the elbows so that the weight in the head is light
  17. Emphasize the movement of the thoracic spine rather than relying on the easy mobility of the neck
  18. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then lead with the chest to raise the head and release back to the floor


Fish Pose Cues

Contraindications and Cautions for Fish Pose

  • High or low blood pressure
  • Migraine
  • Insomnia
  • Serious lower-back or neck injury

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Benefits of Fish Pose

mobilizes and strengthens the upper back and neck; strengthens the quadriceps; opens the shoulders in extension; stretches the chest

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3 Ways to Modification for Fish Pose

Chris Dougherty

Chris Dougherty

Place a block or a rolled blanket horizontally beneath the shoulder blades to support the lift of the chest; use two blocks, one beneath the head and one beneath the shoulder blades if the cervical extension feels too strong; place a looped strap at mid-thigh to prevent the legs from externally rotation; practice with the big toe mounds pressing into a wall to animate the legs

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Preparatory Poses

While Sarvangasana isn't exactly a preparatory pose, Matsyasana is often sequenced as a counter-pose after Shoulderstand. Other preparations for this pose might include:

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Follow-up Poses

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More Pose Detail

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