Preparation/ Simplified Variation for Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Type : Backward Bend
Justification : Chest opener
Complimentary Posture : Salamba Svarangasana
Physical Benefits : Opens the chest and lungs. Stretches the quadriceps and psoas. Relieves tension in the neck and shoulders. Stretches the abdominal organs and diaphragm as well as the throat, tongue and vocal cords, therefor excellent for singers, actors and public speakers ! Stimulates the blood flow to the head, the lymph glands, thyroid and parathyroid. Deepens and encourages correct breathing. Relieves constipation.
Therapeutic Benefits : Relieves asthma, respiratory ailments, menstrual cramps, fatigue and depression. As this posture stimulates the body in general, it is better to avoid practicing it at night.
Limitations : To be avoided if you have high/low blood pressure, insomnia, migraine, back or neck injuries or issues.
How To Practice :
Phase I : Sit in staff pose (Dandasana) on the floor with a block next to you. Lay back on your elbows and place the block under dorsal spine (the center of the ribcage) and let your head fall back to find the floor. If your head does not reach the floor or it is too intense in the neck, place a folded blanket under your head. Keeping your arms along your sides for the moment just let the ribcage and the diaphragm release into the block for 4-5 breaths. To intensify the posture, bring your hands to prayer position (Anjali Mudra) . On the inhale extend your arms back behind your head placing the forefingers and thumbs on the floor. If this isn’t possible, use a strap, placing it at the top of the forearm, shoulder width apart and let the arms fall as far back as your flexibility will allow. Relax your throat and facial muscles. Breathe 4-5 breaths. On the inhale bring the hands back to prayer position. Exhale placing them on the side of your trunk. To come back, press your elbows, hands and forearms into the mat and lead with the sternum and let the head follow.
Phase II : Sit in staff pose (Dandasana) on the floor with a block next to you. Lay back on your elbows and place the block under the shoulder-blades points and let your head fall back onto the floor. Again, if your head doesn’t touch the floor or if this is too strenuous on your neck or throat, place a folded blanket under the crown of your head to support it. Linger here for a few breaths to let the sternum open gently. Then bring the hands into prayer position and on the inhale extend them behind the head placing the the index and thumb on the floor and eventually the backs of your hands. Relax your throat and facial muscles and breathe deeply for 5 breaths. On the inhale bring the hands back to prayer position. Linger here for a couple of breaths and then place your forearms and hands on the mat. To come back, press your elbows, hands and forearms into the mat and lead with the sternum and let the head follow.
Tips : This is the simplified and supported version. If you want to deepen the posture you can remove the brick and clasp the edges of your mat to slide the crown of your head as far back towards your coccyx as your flexibility will allow. Pull your shoulder-blades and shoulders as far away as possible from your ears and open your sternum as much as possible. For more seasoned practitioners, you can also try the classic version : starting in Lotus position (Padmasana) and then lowering yourself into the pose from there.