How To Do Fish Pose
Say it like this: maht-see-AHS-uh-nuh
The Sanskrit name for this pose comes from two words: Matsya meaning fish and Asana meaning pose. Commonly considered a counter pose to Sarvangasana or shoulder stand.
Fish pose stretches the front of the body from the throat through to the chest, down to the abdomen, hip flexors and the intercostal which are the muscles between the ribs.
It also strengthens the upper back muscles and the back of the neck thus improving posture and spinal flexibility. The lungs are opened up which improves breathing and can relieve respiratory problems. By stimulating the abdominal muscles it helps to relieve menstrual cramps and constipation. Fatigue and anxiety are also relieved by this energizing pose.
Fish pose is a back bending pose like Camel Pose and and like Camel Pose it is also a heart opening pose which can often release held in emotions. The reason for this is because it opens the fourth and fifth chakras, energy centres located at the heart and throat. Whilst practising the pose it is important to stay calm, keep the breath even and be aware of your feelings. Very often people protect this part of the body by slouching and poor posture. Once these chakras are opened, often self confidence and well being is improved and can result in emotional growth.
The regular practice of Fish Pose is physically and emotionally satisfying. Be like a fish! As always in yoga listen to your body and don’t push beyond your body’s physical limits. Keep your breath and your mind soft and flowing and swim through the process!
Start by lying on your back with legs extended and arms by your sides, palms down. Next bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor. Inhale and press your elbows and forearms into the floor and lift your chest creating an arch in the upper back.
Slide your hands, palms down, below your buttocks and rest them on the backs of your hands. Lift your shoulders and upper body off the floor and tilt your head backwards bringing either the back of the head or the crown of the head to the floor, depending on how high you arch your back.
Your knees can be bent or straight to the floor, but if they are straight keep your thighs active and press out through the heels.
If you feel any tension or strain in your neck, lower your chest a little. You can also put a thick folded towel or blanket underneath the back of your head to support it.
Hold the pose for five breaths or up to 30 seconds. To release you should press firmly through the forearms lifting your head slightly off the mat. Exhale as you lower your torso and head down to the floor. Draw your legs up with knees up to chest and into Apanasana (knees to chest pose, then stretch out your legs.
If you are very experienced it is possible to practise Fish Pose with your legs in the Lotus Pose (Padmasana).
Extended Fish Pose is also more challenging. Begin as above and then while exhaling lift your legs together off the floor at an angle of 45 degrees. Lift the arms to an angle of 45 degrees, but for the deepest stretch lift your arms straight up towards the ceiling, fingers outstretched, then bring your palms together in prayer position (Anjali Mudra).
If you are wanting a restorative variation you may place a yoga block underneath the middle of your back. Lie over it and allow your arms, legs and throat to relax.
Contraindications for Fish Pose are high or low blood pressure, insomnia or migraine. Do not practise this pose if you have a low back of neck injury.