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Yoga – Matsyasna (Fish Pose)

The word matsya means fish. This posture is dedicated to Matsya, the Fish, the incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, the source of maintainer of the Universe and of all things. It is related that once upon a time the whole earth had become corrupt and was about to be overwhelmed by a Universal Flood. Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a fish to save the world from the Flood.

This posture fills the lungs with air and increases lung capacity, just as a fish fills its gills with air. It is excellent for floating in water. The position of the legs changes the centre of gravity, which means the head can be held above the water facilitating respiration. As the body is compact and rigid, it is able to float with less effort.

Matsyasana is a lying (supine) pose, and gives a backward stretch to the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine and expands the chest fully. It is a counter posture of Sarvangasana. Those who are forbidden to perform Sarvangasana (the Shoulderstand), can perform this particular posture, especially, those who are suffering from cervical Spondylosis. For them Matsyasana is boon. It can be performed by sitting in Padmasana, Vajrasana or with the legs straight position. In all the three alternate poses of Matsyasana, the crown of the head will touch the ground.

  • Sit in Padmasana pose.
  • Slowly take the help of your elbows, lie down on your back completely.
  • Place the hands down beside the head, fingers pointing towards the shoulders.
  • Taking the help of your hands, inhale, lift the chest slightly, tilt the head backward and place the top of the head on the ground.
  • Deepen the arch by lifting the chest & neck up.
  • Catch hold of your big toes with the index and middle fingers making a ring with the thumb.
  • Place the elbows on the floor, knees must be on the floor.
  • Hold the position as long as it is comfortable and continue normal breathing.
  • When done, release the toes, taking the help of your hands straighten your head.
  • With the support of your elbows sit up in Padmasana. Then lie down & relax in Shavasana.


This variation is in Vajrasana position & follows the same technique as described above except for the position of the hands which should be placed on the thighs.


  • This simple variation of Matsyasana can be done by the young as well as the elderly people without any worry and will give all the advantages of traditional Matsyasana.
  • Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor.
  • Inhale, lift your hips slightly off the floor, and put your hands under your tailbone with your palms facing the floor, your thumbs touching each other.
  • Then rest your buttocks on the backs of your hands (don’t lift them off your hands as you perform this pose). Try to adjust your forearms and elbows under the spine properly.
  • While pressing your forearms and elbows firmly against the floor, inhale, draw your head backward and place the top of the head on the floor.
  • Deepen the arch by lifting the chest up.
  • Your weight should rest on your elbows. There should be a minimal amount of weight on your head.
  • Breathe normally all the while, keeping your legs and lower torso relaxed.
  • To come out of the pose, exhale, lift your head and place it gently back down, then release the arms.


Beginners, sometimes, strain their neck in this pose. If you feel any discomfort in your neck or throat, either lower your chest slightly toward the floor or put a thickly folded blanket under the back of your head.

People suffering from heart disease, hernia, any spinal problems or pregnant women should practice this asana under the guidance of an expert.

  • According to a traditional text, Matsyasana is considered as the destroyer of all diseases.
  • Blood circulation is increased as your cervical, thoracic and lumber regions are stretched. Your back muscles are also strengthened. It is beneficial to those suffering from cervical Spondylitis problem, neck pain and stiffness.
  • As your chest is expanded, the capacity of your lungs increases and breathing becomes easier. It is good for asthma and bronchitis.
  • This is helpful for swimmers who can then hold their breath under water for longer periods.
  • Pressure on the neck also works on the thyroid gland and the parathyroid gland (which regulates the level of calcium in the body). Metabolism balances and immune system is boosted.
  • Most of abdominal and stomach problems are also corrected as your intestines and abdominal muscles are stretched and toned. It is good in constipation & for bleeding piles.
  • The pressure on your neck stimulates the energy centre that regulates the voice thus improving voice quality.
  • It tones the nervous system, the pelvic organs and the nerves connected with the sexual functions. It also helps prevent and remove disorders of the reproductive system.

Please remember that no practice can be adequately learnt from a book or written instructions. When you are doing any asanas first time, these should be done under the guidance of a Guru or a qualified yoga instructor.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti