Fish Pose (Matsyasana) often appears at the end of the practice as a classic counterpose to Shoulderstand. It brings mobility to the upper back and chest, strengthens the neck, stimulates the crown of the head, and facilitates deep breathing. Fish Pose offers us a unique opportunity to try on the experience of another. When we practice moving through the forms of nature, we begin to see that the outer forms may be different but the breath and awareness are the same. Use your time in Fish Pose to cultivate compassion, the ability to see yourself in the eyes of another.
Follow these steps to come into a beginner's variation of Fish Pose:
1. Recline on your back with the legs outstretched and big toes side-by-side.
2. Tuck the fingers just under the curve of the seat on each side with the arms hugging the body. I like to keep the palms facing up to encourage a healthy shoulder rotation and I personally avoid sitting up on the wrists.
3. Root down through the elbows while bringing the shoulder blades into the back body. On an inhale, lift the heart skyward and, keeping the back of the neck long, bring the upper back portion of the head to the ground. Find a graceful arc in the spine from heart to crown, pressing down into the earth with the head to keep the neck strong.
4. Breathe deeply for 10-15 breaths, keeping the gaze turned up towards the brows.
5. To come out of the pose, press into the elbows, inhale chin to chest to gaze at the feet, and exhale down onto the back.
To be honest, I'm not a fan of the fish variation that keeps the head floating above the ground because it tends to kink the neck. With this variation, you also lose the neck strengthening and crown stimulation. Advanced students can try the pose with the legs in Padmasana and the hands binding the feet.
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