Opener for Upper Chakras—Matsyasana—Fish Pose

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The Fish





Fish Posture - Variations

Matsyasana (matsya = fish)

This is one of the postures cited in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which states that: “Hatha Yoga begins with asanas (Sanskrit = postures), which are practiced to attain harmony between mind, body and soul. The result is a stable and balanced posture, good health and lightness of body.”

This is another very powerful Yoga posture (a classic) that is included in this site for the all of the upper Chakras. It's obvious why. All of these areas get an incredible stretch. I have left the area under my back white to point out where to stretch in and up off the floor. This is the goal. There are preliminary stretches to help you achieve this (see below).

Detailed Instructions

  • You can sit cross-legged, in the lotus posture, with your legs straight and stretched, or as I am doing above. I am sitting with my knees pressed together, and my feet together under my buttocks. (See below for full instructions for the goal shown above. Following before that are preliminary stretches to reach this goal.)
  • It is important to stretch into these positions slowly so you don't hurt yourself. In fact, just doing the first step over and over again until it's comfortable is a very good idea to reach the goal depicted above.

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Preliminary Stretches

Fish preliminary
  • This movement is a good preliminary for the Fish posture. Inhale slowly as you lift your face, hands and arms up and back, as Eugenia demonstrates.
  • Sit back on your buttocks between your heels, if possible, with your knees together for the Fish (as shown above). If that is too difficult, have your legs spread slightly as she demonstrates here in Step 11 of the Moon Salutation on this site (see navigation menu above left for link). Elbows are slightly bent as Eugenia shows here. If this is easy, then you can try to come back with your elbows on the floor as shown in the top image of this page (but bring your knees together before you do that).
  • Camel Pose
  • If this is too difficult, just sit with your feet under your buttocks. If that is too difficult, just stand up on your knees and do the best you can (more like The Camel, shown in the illustration, left). However, your head should hang all the way back, not held the way it is in this illustration. This is not a contest. Do what you can and be happy with that.

Progress will only come with patience, visualization and faith in your own body to get more limber with practice and time. It is truly all about believing in yourself and discipline. And what is discipline but forming positive habits? The now popular Law of Attraction is all about forming habits that are positive. If you start with your body, then it will be much easier to do it with your mind and your life!

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The Goal

  • To do the variation shown at the top of this page, sit down on your knees with your feet (soles) under your buttocks.
  • Regardless of how you position your legs, stretch your arms up over your head and stretch your entire spine up as high as you can as you inhale. This is a setup for what is to follow. Exhale and relax into the position you have chosen for your legs.
  • From a sitting position slowly bend down with your elbows to the floor behind you. Once you have your elbows down on the floor, lift your chest up as high as you can. Notice the area in white where my spine is curling up. Stretch that up as high as you can.
  • Once you get into the position, begin breathing slowly until you begin to feel more comfortable. Keep your chin pressed into the your chest until you are ready to let it go back.
  • Now, very slowly, try to let your head hang back and then bring the crown of your head down to the floor behind your feet. Note: Do not attempt to bring your head back unless it is easy. You can keep your chin pressed into your chest while you stretch only your spine in the beginning. I cannot emphasize this enough, because you could injure yourself if you push too hard with your neck and your spine. It's not worth it.

Remember, if you push too hard, don't blame me! You are the one who makes the choices here, and I have warned you time and again about how not to feel pain while you practice Yoga. If you feel pain, you are not doing Yoga!

Here is the way the Hatha Yoga Pradipika gives details for the legs for the full pose:
  • Place your right foot at the root of your left thigh, grasp your right toe with your right hand passing over your back.
  • Place your left foot on your right thigh at its root, grasp your left toe with your left hand passing behind your back. Note: This is obviously much more difficult, but if you are advanced in Hatha Yoga, it's a great stretch.

The author, Sri Matsyanatha, wrote that “it increases appetite and is an instrument for destroying many deadly diseases. Its practice awakens the Kundalini, stops the nectar shedding from the Moon in people.” This is quite a powerful statement. Read the Chakra series to understand what the nectar is and how the Moon is symbolized in the Moon Salutation on this site. You are beginning to learn on this site that Yoga is not just an exercise program that you do once a week in class. It's a way of life, and the subject is vast with many branches!

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If you have bad posture with drooping or rounded shoulders, practice this and the Camel posture in this series daily. Hold the posture while you inhale into and exhale out of your abdomen, consciously with intention. A hunched back can be improved with these postures.

Even if it seems difficult at first, try to sit with your knees bent with your feet under your buttocks—if only for a very short time. This is actually a position that the greatest living Hatha Yoga teacher (Guru), B.K.S. Iyengar, recommends for knee problems. I used to sit like this on the floor while I watched a movie on TV after I broke my right foot and had a problem with my right knee as a result.

There is much more online about this. The language can be slightly difficult because it was originally Sanskrit which was translated into English from another language in India. Much is lost in translations for sure.

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