If you have read any of my other posts, or know me at all, you know that Matsyasana (Fish) is my favorite asana. For me, fish heals a multitude of ills. In fact, many ancient texts refer to Matsyasana as “destroyer of all diseases.” Whether active or supported, this pose relieves stiffness and tension in your neck and back.
This backbend pose also stretches the muscles in your groin (psoas), abdominals, and chest (intercostals), provides an opening at the heart and throat chakras, and stimulates the thyroid.
For those of us who spend most of our day hunched over a desk at work, or round our shoulders over a mobile device while engaged in a battle of wits playing “Words with Friends,” matsyasana helps correct our oft horrendous posture.
In my favorite variation of the active pose, I instruct my students to lie on their backs with their arms tucked closely by their sides, and roll their shoulders back and chest open. Then I have them place their wrists directly under their sit bones. This little adjustment can bring tremendous relief for carpal tunnel sufferers. On an inhale, press into the hands and forearms, draw the shoulder blades (scapula) together and down the back, and bring the torso and head off of the floor. Then, gently, place the head down on the mat leaving a nice arch in the back and open chest. To protect the neck, there’s very little weigh on the head.
An excellent counter pose to plow (halaasana), come out of fish slowly. I like to have my students gently tuck their chin, lie back in savasana and rub their hands vigorously to make heat, before placing them over their eyes which can help calm the central nervous system. Caution: Backbends are energizing. If you suffer from insomnia, try forward folding instead. Fish pose is contraindicated for those who are amidst a migraine, have high blood pressure or have endured head or neck injuries.
Fish pose is great for releasing blockages in all of the upper chakras (throat, brow & crown) as well as the heart which is where the upper and lower chakras meet. Where the heart is the gateway to love and compassion, the throat chakra is the gateway to expression, creativity and truth. If the crown chakra is the portal for consciousness and the root chakra draws in the grounding support of the earth, the intersection at the heart is balance. To quote Anodea Judith, “Liberation is the path of transcendence. Manifestation is the path of immanence. Both lead to the same place; the devine.”
If you swim in the bliss of fish pose regularly, you find peace in balance and speaking your truth — or crave the release of speaking your truth. You are a creative & spiritual person even if it’s not in the conventional sense of the terms. If fish pose has you feeling like shark bait, start out with supported fish until your muscles open up and the pose is physically more appealing. You may be shy or find it difficult to translate emotions into expression. So, try engaging in creative activities like writing or singing (even in the shower) to gently release the throat.
“When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain”
Fish for your truth, compassion and bliss in matsyasana tonight, and you will catch your balance.
– Your Charmed Yogi
Learn about Pigeon Pose & Warrior 1 from the rest of the “What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You” series.
I love Matsyasana!
I have a ‘love hate ‘ relationship with all backbends. I have limited spineal extension, always have and as I am now a desk jocky for 1/2 the day, that just shortens everything up even more. Thats why I spend at least a little bit of everyday in Fish, supported usually. But I love it! I just hate the limited part 🙂
Great post as always
Cheryl – I’m glad you give back to yourself in this pose. You deserve it!
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