How to Do Fish Pose in Yoga (Guide to Matsyasana)

Boost your energy and open your heart in Fish pose, a deep back bending pose called Matsyasana in Sanskrit. If you perform the pose in the water, you’ll float gracefully like a fish – and that’s how it got its name.

In yogic tradition, this pose is performed with legs in the Lotus pose. However, Lotus is not accessible to many students, so the legs can also be extended or bent.

Fish pose is typically done as a counterpoise to shoulder stand since it stretches the same muscles the shoulder stand stresses. In any case, make sure you do it after you’re already warmed up, as it is a deep backbend.

Fish pose is what we call a “heart-opening” pose in yoga. That’s true both in a physical and a deeper sense – it stretches the muscles around your heart (chest, neck, and abdomen) – but also releases blockages in your heart and throat chakras.

I often slouch my back and round my shoulders. If you’re like me, the Fish pose is one of the best poses you can practice for improving your posture.“, says Yoga Answered contributor Sara Popovic. “Rounded posture doesn’t only affect you physically but can also block your heart and lower your self-esteem. In that way, fish pose helps me to open my heart, and I always feel happier and more compassionate afterward.”

Fish Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Matsyasana
Pose Type: Chest-Opening Yoga Poses, Yoga Backbend Poses
Difficulty Level: Beginner pose
Targets: Neck and chest
Benefits: In traditional yoga, it’s believed the Fish pose is “the destroyer of all diseases.” The pose stretches the hip flexors, muscles between the ribs, abdomen, and front of the neck. It also strengthens the upper back and back of the neck. With regular practice, it can help you improve posture. From a chakra perspective, it activates the throat chakra, which is responsible for self-expression and honest communication, and the heart chakra, the center of love and compassion. It is also one of the rare poses that put pressure on the crown chakra, which relates to knowledge and wisdom.
Preparatory Poses: Bridge pose, Candle pose, Wind Release pose, Bow pose, Cobra pose

How to Do Fish Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Lie on your back. Your knees can be straight or bent – you can find the version that feels better for you.
  2. Lift your pelvis slightly off the floor and slide your hands below your glutes, with palms facing down. Release your buttocks on the backs of your hands.
  3. Tuck your elbows and shoulders close to the torso.
  4. Press your forearms firmly into the ground and lift your chest and head off the floor. Then release the crown of your head back on the floor.
  5. Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds, then release. Hug your knees and tuck your chin to relieve any tension.

Beginner’s Tip

The most common discomfort people feel in the Fish pose is straining in the neck. When you’re just learning the pose, you can either place the back of your head on the floor instead of the crown or place a block or a folded blanket under your head. Your legs should be active the entire time-this will help you elevate your chest higher. Finally, don’t bear any weight in your head – instead, lift yourself using the strength of your legs, back muscles, and arms.

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