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Fish Pose

Boost the body's energy and fight fatigue with Fish Pose, or Matsyasana in Sanskrit, while building confidence with a loving stretch in the shoulders. It is said that if you perform Matsyasana in water, you will be able to float like a fish.


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Traditionally Fish Pose is performed with the legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose). Since Padmasana is beyond the capacity of most beginning students, here we’ll work either with the knees bent, feet on the floor, or with the legs extended straight and pressed against the floor.

 

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Sanskrit

Matsyasana (mot-see-AHS-anna)

matsya = fish

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Fish Pose basics

Benefits

  • A traditional text that Matsyasana is the destroyer of all diseases.”
  • Stretches the deep hip flexors (psoas) and the muscles (intercostals) between the ribs
  • Stretches and stimulates the muscles of the belly and front of the neck
  • Stretches and stimulates the organs of the belly and throat
  • Strengthens the muscles of the upper back and back of the neck
  • Improves posture
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Fish Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

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  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Inhale, lift your pelvis slightly off the floor, and slide your hands, palms down, below your buttocks. Then rest your buttocks on the backs of your hands (and don’t lift them off your hands as you perform this pose). Be sure to tuck your forearms and elbows up close to the sides of your torso.
  2. Inhale and press your forearms and elbows firmly against the floor. Next press your shoulder blades into your back and, with an inhale, lift your upper torso and head away from the floor. Then release your head back onto the floor. Depending on how high you arch your back and lift your chest, either the back of your head or its crown will rest on the floor. There should be a minimal amount of weight on your head to avoid crunching your neck. (For more about this, see the Beginners Tip below.)
  3. You can keep your knees bent or straighten your legs out onto the floor. If you do the latter, keep your thighs active, and press out through the heels.
  4. Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing smoothly. With an exhalation lower your torso and head to the floor. Draw your thighs up into your belly and squeeze.
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Beginner tips

Beginners sometimes strain their neck in this pose. If you feel any discomfort in your neck or throat, either lower your chest slightly toward the floor, or put a thickly folded blanket under the back of your head.

Modifications and Props

The backbending position in Matsyasana can be difficult for beginning students. Perform the pose with your back supported on a thickly rolled blanket. Be sure your head rests comfortably on the floor and your throat is soft.

Deepen the Pose

To increase the challenge in this pose, slide your hands out from underneath your buttocks and bring them into Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) with arms outstretched and fingertips pointing toward the ceiling.

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Teacher tips

In the pose, the top of the head touches the floor but students should not put their full weight on their head.

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Variations

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

Supported Fish Pose

Roll a blanket and place it across your mat, positioned so that the roll will be under your shoulder blades. Lie back over the blanket roll and extend your arms out to the sides. You can practice with legs extended, or bend at the knees and place your feet on the floor near your buttocks.

 

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

Fish Pose on blocks

Set a block across the top of your mat, and another lengthwise a few inches below it. Lie back so that the first block is under your head; adjust the other so that it is comfortably between your shoulder blades. You can practice with legs extended, or bend at your knees and place your feet on the floor.

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Why we love this pose

Fish Pose is a heart-opening asana that can be practiced using many different variations. This allows you to adjust the pose so that it can be practiced safely and comfortably for your body.

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Preparatory and counter poses

Preparatory Poses

Follow-up Poses