Sanskrit Pronunciation mat-see-AHS-ah-nah, (Matsyāsana)
Meaning Matsya - fish
Asana - Pose
Pose Type Sitting, reclining, back- bend
Pose Level Beginner, practice 30 to 60 seconds
Beneficial In Strength and flexibility in core, back and neck
Fish Pose is a beginner level reclining back-back bend. This asana is designed in such a way that, it stretches your whole upper body and increases its flexibility. It is beneficial in enhancing your overall body posture.
This asana mainly focuses on the following muscles.
- Lower and middle back
- Core (abs) and hips
- Neck and shoulders
Origin and Philosophy
Matsyasana was first described in the ancient Yoga text, Gheranda Samhita, in the 17th century that states its medieval presence.
Moreover, Swami Satyanand Saraswati and BKS Iyenger also explain this asana in their yoga sequences. This pose is 5th among the 12 basic postures in Hatha Yoga
It is said that Fish Pose makes you float like a fish/Matasya when you perform this asana in water. This is the reason why we call it Fish Pose/Matasyasana.
BKS Iyenger says, Matsyasana is dedicated to the fish incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to mythology, the fish incarnation saved Manu and seven great sages (Saptrishi) with all Vedas from the impending universal floor, which was going to wipe the whole earth. Thus, he preserved all the wisdom.
How to Do Fish Pose
Achieving this asana is not very hard. It just needs a good focus and coordination of the body. The following are the steps to perform Matsyasana smoothly.
Preparing the Asana
1. Firstly, lie flat on the floor, on your back, with arms on the sides, palm facing down.
2. Now, cross your legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose). Then, place your arms on the floor, by the sides of your body, palms facing down.
Take a deep breath here.
Getting Into the Asana
3. Exhale and lower the legs, towards the floor, as much as possible. Simultaneously, with the support of the arms & elbows, arch the back and lift your chest & neck off the floor.
4. Turn the head back and rest the crown of your head on the floor.
5. Hold the feet and try to bring the elbows to the floor, increasing the arch of the back.
Hold this position for 30-60 seconds with deep breaths. Either close your eyes or gaze straight.
- The spine should be stretched.
- The crown of the head should be resting on the floor.
- Your chest should be raised, and the neck should be stretched.
Releasing the Pose
6. When you are done, take a deep breath. Exhale, release the arch, rest the back of the head on the floor and lie flat on your back.
7. Inhale, release the legs and relax, or, sit in padmasana, release the legs and relax.
For a repetition, recross the legs in the other way, and repeat the whole process.
BKS Iyenger describes an extra step after step 5. He describes it as follows
After step 5, bend the arms and hold both elbows with the palm of the alternate hand. Then place the forearms on the floor behind the head.
If you are having trouble in keeping your legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose), you can try it with straight legs. Here you have to keep your legs stretched & straight and place your forearms on the floor. Rest of the position of the body remain same as above.
- In the beginning, you can feel the above pose a little challenging to achieve. So, you can do it lying flat on the back, stretching the arms over the head.
- If you are feeling difficulty in touching the crown of the head to the floor, you can place a yoga block under your crown. Besides, if you are comfortable in hanging the crown, you can keep it hanging.
- Placing a rolled blanket, under your back, is a good option. It will work as a support to your back.
- Feel free to ask a friend or instructor for help in achieving this asana correctly.
Precautions and Contraindications
- Do not put much weight on the crown of your head. Rest it gently on the floor.
- Do not overstretch your body. Stretch your body till your body allows.
- Perform Fish Pose only on an empty stomach or at least 4 hours after having a meal.
- Do not put a strain on your neck. Keep it in the arch formed by the spine.
- Avoid this asana if you are suffering from Spondylitis (inflammation of the vertebra). As this asana puts pressure on your neck and spine, so, performing it in such a condition can be harmful.
- If you have blood pressure problems, migraine or heart problems, consult your doctor before performing Matsyasana. It is better if you avoid this asana in such conditions.
- Strictly avoid this asana in deep or recent injury on neck, elbows, core or spine.
- As this asana puts pressure on the abdomen area, it is not prescribed for pregnant women.
Benefits of Fish Pose
The regular practice of this asana enhances the flexibility of the whole upper body. It aids in the strength and mobility of the hips and spine. The following are some benefits of Matsyasana.
- This asana brings a proper flow of the blood to the head & brain and nourishes the pituitary and pineal gland. Thus, it improves brain & body functions and removes stress, anxiety, and depressions.
- Matsyasana tones the muscles and bones of the neck and shoulder. This asana opens the muscles of the neck and shoulders and improves their alignment too. Also, it is constructive in correcting the round shoulders.
- It removes the stiffness & tension from the shoulders & neck and makes them strong.
- This asana is a good chest opener exercise. It expands the chest and increases lung capacity. Thus, it helps in proper breathing & flow of prana and prevents respiratory disorders.
- Fish Pose stretches the neck gently and massages the thyroid and parathyroid glands (responsible for metabolism and calcium levels). Thus this asana helps to regulate the body’s metabolism and calcium levels.
- Through gentle stretch in the abdominal part, it massages the abdominal organs and glands, such as the liver, kidneys, intestines, etc. Thus, it soothes the digestive system and gives us relief from constipation, indigestion and other digestion related problems.
- Matsyasana gives a gentle stretch to the hip flexors, pelvis, and lower & middle back. Therefore, besides providing a healthy and flexible spine, it also helps to alleviate menstrual pain.
- This asana removes the restlessness of the brain and calms it. Also, this asana improves sleeping patterns and helps to defeats insomnia.
- Fish Pose helps to stimulate Heart Chakra & Throat (Visuddha) Chakra. Thus, it improves self-expression, self-belief, and emotional growth.