Matsyasana: The Fish Pose
Matsyasana or the fish pose is well-known by many across all levels. Here, we will go through the technique, the variations and the benefits of the pose. Because of the nature of this pose, and the way it naturally falls into a program of classical poses, it is a good idea to think about what you wear. This might just be your opportunity to wear those comfortable high waist leggings that will cover your tummy as you lean back.
There are two different starting poses for matsyasana. Normally, you would start off lying on your back and then lift your head and chest before you put the top of your head on the mat. If you are able to sit in a full lotus pose, start there. Then, lean back supporting your body on your hands, proceed by putting your elbows on the mat, holding on to your big toes if you can reach them and lower the top of your head down on the mat.
In the pose, you focus on lifting your chest up so that it becomes an active lift with the chest, rather than leaning on your arms and head. You will, of course, feel a certain weight on your arms and a light pressure on your head.
There is another variation of the matsyasana which can be very useful for a longer rest in the pose. Here, you use a yoga bolster, or if you don’t have a bolster, you can use a rolled up sticky mat or blanket. You place the bolster across your mat so that when you lie down over it, the lowest part of your shoulder blades is on the bolster. You then lay your arms out to the sides, if absolutely necessary, put a little pillow or blanket under the top of the head as support.
All the variations of the pose have the same benefits. They open up the chest; it is a heart opener and gives space to the respiratory system. Matsyasana stretches out the abdomen and is therefore beneficial to the processes of the abdominal organs. At the same time, it is a backward back bend and can be an important help to maintain movement and flexibility. Matsyasana is also an ideal counterpose for halasana and Sarvangasana. After doing matsyasana it is important to straighten out the back to let it return to its natural straighter shape. Therefore when you come out of the pose, lie down in Shavasana.
Using the variation of the pose with the bolster opens up an opportunity to stay in the pose for even longer. This, in turn, gives a stronger beneficial effect, especially on the respiratory system. It can even be used when you have a cold or flu to help your body heal. If you intend to stay in the pose for a longer time, take extra care so you don’t get cold–make sure you wear warm clothes like fleece leggings and an extra jacket. Most important of all, enjoy!