Beginner Yoga How To

Master Fish Pose in 5 Steps

Open the shoulders and chest in Matsyasana in preparation for Camatkarasana.

NEXT STEP IN YOGAPEDIAModify Fish Pose for Joy + Contentment


matsya = fish · asana = pose
Fish Pose


Opens the shoulders and chest; softens the often-tight middle back; stretches the neck and thyroid; offers a balance of opening without grasping, and of relaxing without collapsing.


1. Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose), with your legs extended in front of you and your spine long.
2. Slowly roll onto your back. Press your palms down and lift up onto the top of your head.
3. Walk your fingers toward your feet until your arms are straight—your elbows should be off the floor. Again press down firmly with your palms, and tuck your shoulder blades into your back; this will lift and open your chest and support your neck.
4. Keep your legs and feet strongly engaged. If it feels like there’s too much pressure on your head or spine, see the modifications on page 32.
5. Place your attention on the sensation of your breath right at the edge of your nostrils. Don’t think about or visualize the breath, but actually tune in to the feeling of the wind energy passing in and out of your body. Let your mind settle into this practice of close attention.

Avoid These Common Mistakes


Don’t collapse through the chest and scrunch your neck and shoulders.

fish pose

Don’t let your feet flop open to the sides. This can put pressure on your low back.

About Our Pro
Teacher and model Cyndi Lee is the first female Western yoga teacher to integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism. Founder of New York City’s OM Yoga Center (1998–2012), she now owns Yoga Goodness Studio in central Virginia and teaches workshops and trainings worldwide. Author of Yoga Body, Buddha Mind, Lee regularly writes for Yoga Journal, Real Simple, Lion’s Roar, and other magazines. She holds an MFA in dance from the University of California, Irvine, is a longtime student of Gelek Rimpoche, and is currently training for ordination as a Zen Buddhist chaplain. Learn more at