Yoga Pose: Matsyasana or Fish!

Hey!   I really love Thursdays, I’m not sure why but part of me feels like if I make it to Thursday the hard part is over and I can relax a little.  I also I am usually very motivated to get things done that I don’t care to do over the weekend so Thursdays are productive for me!  Last night I got in a nice and easy 3 mile run.  It was gray and raining but I really didn’t mind.  I love running in the rain.  The parks are usually empty and there is a certain solitude when it’s raining in Boston.  The sound of the rain on the water, the sound of my shoes on the wet pavement and the water on my face calms me in a way a run on a sunny day can’t.   The warm shower after always feels particularly good too!

I’ve been hiding in the yoga studio a lot lately.  The past few weeks have been rainy in Boston, I haven’t been in the mood to run and I have had a lot on my mind.  All three of those things motivate me to find my mat.  I take classes from a few different instructors at different yoga studios, each class is different and the flows always vary.  Lately all of my instructors have us spending some time in fish pose.   When I first learned fish pose I didn’t really enjoy it, I couldn’t relax and I didn’t enjoy my neck and head being tilted back so far.  Over the years I’ve learned to embrace the pose and now I really enjoy how much it opens my heart.

Fish Pose with Legs in Lotus

Fish pose or Matsyasana in Sanskrit is the counter pose to Shoulder Stand.  It is a heart opener and stretches the shoulders and neck while strengthening the back.  The stretching and strengthening can help to correct rounded-shoulders.  The back bending aspect of the pose stretches and stimulates the muscles and organs of the stomach and throat.  The back and shoulders are strengthened by supporting the weight of your body.  The pose has been known to help relieve menstrual cramps and constipation while the back band portion of the pose can alleviate back pain.  The opening of the chest encourages deep breathing and can relieve respiratory issues like asthma.  The pose stimulates the anahata chakra or heart center, this can help to relieve emotional stress and anxiety.  It took me a few years to find comfort in the pose to really experience the heart opening benefits but I have always noticed the deeper breathing I am to do in the pose.

Fish Pose

Traditionally the pose is done with your legs in lotus pose or Padmasana.  Practicing the pose in this way is very advanced and is  too much for many beginning students.  I’ve only entered the pose a few times this way and have found it to be very intense.  I recommend practicing the pose with your legs straight out in front of you and pressed against the floor or with your knees bent.

  • To  enter the post begin with your legs straight out in front of you or your knees bent and feet on the floor.  Lower down so you are laying on your back.
  • Inhale and left your pelvis off the floor, place your hands under your butt so they create the shape of a diamond.
  • Lower your pelvis down as you exhale.   Bring your elbows and forearms close to your torso so they are inline with your body.
  • Slowly inhale and press against your forearms and elbows as you lift your chest and neck and come into a back bend.  Slowly lower your head to so either the back or crown of your head is resting on the floor depending on the deepness of your back bend.   Most of your weight should be supported in your forearms, elbows and back.
  • Relax and breathe for 5 to 8 breaths.
  • When ready slowly come out of the pose and lower on to your back on the exhale.
  • On your inhale bring your knees to your chest and give them a hug to stretch out your lower back.

Fish is a pose where props are really good for beginners.  A rolled blanket can be placed under the arch of the back for added support or laid out flat for the head to rest on.  Both uses of the prop can make the pose more comfortable and can allow you to relax and breathe deeper which will help you to enjoy the benefits of the heart opener.  There aren’t any poses that are done specifically in preparation for fish pose but this is the counter pose for shoulder stand.  I usually always try to follow shoulder stand with fish pose as the opening feels great on my shoulders after having supported my weight in shoulder stand.

Next time you are in fish pose try to breathe deeply and experience the heart opening of the pose!

Do you enjoy fish pose?  Have you had trouble entering the pose because of the stress it can put on the head and neck?  Do you counter your shoulder stands with fish pose?  Do you find you are able to breath deeply in fish pose?


5 thoughts on “Yoga Pose: Matsyasana or Fish!

  1. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf says:

    I have to admit, fish is definitely a pose that I don’t necessarily enjoy, partially because I always think that I’m doing it wrong 🙂 But I think that it’s a combination of having my head/neck so tilted back and the openness it creates along my throat and chest and the fact that I feel like I can’t breath deeply. Maybe it’s just a matter of relaxing more and working with the pose vs. against it. I didn’t realize all the benefits so thank you!


  2. Debbie says:

    I have chronic neck pain so fish pose has not been my friend in the past. But maybe it’s time to give the fish a second try. :). Thanks for the reminder!


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