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Matsyasana (Fish Pose) for Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical Spondylosis means loss of forward curvature (Lordosis) of the spine. The natural shape of the human neck is a backward curve. We rarely have the habit of working with keeping the head, neck, chest and spinal column in one line. We habitually tend to keep our neck in a forward curve when we work, chat, watch television or sleep. The fallout of this habit is Cervical Spondylosis.

It is also related to the wear & tear due to one's profession, faulty postures, using thick pillow, habit of reading or watching TV in lying position, mental tension, sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercises. The spine becomes straight due to repeated pressure exerted on the spine. Due to this, the internal structure of the disk gets deranged, resulting in the loss of the substance that cushions the disc. Movement of neck shoulders and back becomes very difficult and painful. To cure this problem, one needs to keep in mind the curvature of the neck and give it extension as often as possible. For that, Matsyasana is very much beneficial.


The word Matsya means fish. This posture is dedicated to Matsya, the Fish and 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.


There once lived a wise king named Manu. One day when Manu was bathing in the river, a little fish sought shelter in his cupped palms. “Save me, it said, “and some day I shall help you.” Amazed Manu placed the fish in a pot of water. Overnight the fish outgrew the pot. So Manu placed it in a well. Very shortly it grew too large to live in the well. Astonished Manu placed this magic fish in a large lake where it again became too large. Then Manu led it the river Ganga. The fish continued to grow. Manu now realized that this fish could be none other than the great Lord Vishnu. Reverentially he took it to the ocean. Pleased with Manu’s dedication and devotion, the fish confirmed that it was, indeed, a form of Lord Vishnu. It warned Manu of an approaching flood which would drown the whole earth. It instructed him to build a ship and to load it with the eggs and the young of plants, insects, birds, mammals and all other living creatures. Manu wisely followed the divine counsel and the world was saved.


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 Shoulder stand), 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. This posture fills the lungs with air and increases lung capacity, just as a fish fills its gills with air.


• 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. Keep the knees touching each other in Vajrasana posture and the hands 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 spondylosis, neck pain and stiffness. 

• The Asana does wonders for your respiratory systems; when you assume this position, your chest is stretched open and your bronchial tubes are widened to promote easier breathing. In time your ribcage will expand, and this will also encourage you to breathe more deeply. It is good for asthma and bronchitis.

• The name of the posture derives from the fact that if you adopt the position in water, you will float quite easily. 

• 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.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Om Shanti