Sometimes our yoga practice can be like food, we don't enjoy eating what's best for us. Fish pose, or Matsyasana, is the collard greens of my yoga practice; it was always a struggle for me to get into and I never really enjoyed being in the pose, hence, I almost never teach it.
Well, it seems that fish pose, like collard greens, is en vogue these days. I have been hopping from studio to studio using up new years promo deals, (because this yoga teacher can only afford classes in the Starving Artist Yoga range!) and lo and behold, fish pose is everywhere. Since I seemed destined to swim in uneasy waters, I challenged myself to approach this pose from a different diving board.
Fish pose is a very intense heart-opener and is known to release grief, but it's also is one of the few Asana's that open the throat chakra, or Vissudha. Ruling the thyroid, larynx, ears and mouth, the throat chakra is associated with expression, communication, creativity, humility and expressing ideas, so Matsyasana truly is an artist's Asana. Once I started focusing on this pose in terms of expressive opening, it completely transformed for me. While in the pose, I began to imagine a river flowing down from my heart, through the open valley of my throat, pooling in stillness at the crown of my head. I now use this pose for writer's block: a delicious yogic dip!
- Connecting the heart (true intentions) and the throat (self-expression) = Fuel for great art
- Releases shoulder tension
- Stimulates the thyroid gland
- Irrigates kidneys and stimulates pancreas
This pose also expands the upper lobes of the lungs, so it is great for singers, and can help with asthma as well.
A note of caution to anyone with recent or chronic back or neck injuries or inflammation, this pose is not for you.
This pose is intense and requires some warm up. Try it at the end of your practice, or at least after a few rounds of Sun Salutations.
Lie on your back with your legs straight, feet together, arms by your side, palms down. Lift your left hip, slide your hand underneath, repeat on other side.
Now that you feel like you are in a straight jacket (really, not so bad!) Flex your feet, engage your core and press your elbows are forearms into the mat. This will lift your hips off the ground and engage a backbend. Keeping pressing down through your sits bones (bum), forearms and elbows, keep lifting the chest to the sky. While you are lifting, GENTLY let the crown of your head rest on the floor. There should be just a slight bit of pressure where the crown meets the ground, and no strain in your neck: your arms with help from the abs and back bend should be doing all the work.
As usual, breathe deeply, trying to find places in the body (and brain) where you can release effort and sustain the pose.
Imagine a green river brimming with words and notes and images, flowing down to your throat, mingling with transparent turquoise waters; notice what these mingling waters look like, feel like. Imagine this pooling at the top of your head, right at the top of your thoughts, ready to be dipped into explored whenever you need it.
To come out of the pose, on a exhale, press into your elbows down, take all weight off the head, and slowly ease your way back down to the ground. Release your arms from under you, turning the head from side to side to release any residual tension in your neck.
Relax, notice how you feel - what came up for you in this pose?
Remember your aquamarine pool of ideas? Time to go fishing!