MATSYĀSANA (मत्स्यासन)


‘Matsya’= fish, ‘āsana’= posture

Alternate Names

Balancing Lotus Pose

Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Pose Type: Back-Bend / Supine / Inversion / Stretch

1. Start in Corpse Pose (Savasana), except with your palms face down on the mat (Supine position).
2. Stretch your body from the crown of your head, down through the toes.
3. Rise up on your elbows, with your hands next to your hips, keeping your arms close to your sides. Lift your ribs and chest (leading with the sternum) and draw your shoulders back. Your buttock, down through your heels, should stay grounded to the mat.
4. Lengthen your neck through to the crown of your head to the wall behind you. Then continue to arch back using your abdomen. Open your throat as you release your head, so that the crown of your head is tucked under to rest lightly on the floor. Be sure not to put pressure on the head as your weight should be on the hips and your elbows, with your back muscles and abdomen supporting them.
5. Point your toes and hold the pose for several breaths. Be sure to breath smoothly.
6. When ready, gently raise the head, releasing the neck slowly, and lower your spine back down to the mat and into Corpse Pose (Savasana).

Common Adjustments
• Neck and shoulder strain
• Too much weight placed on the head
• Chest or rib cage collapsed
• Toes not pointed
• Hips lifted off the ground
• Legs lifted off the ground
• Resting on the back of the head instead the top of the crown
• Arms too far out from the body
• Core not engaged

• Students with little flexibility in the spine and/or have back or neck discomfort, can place a blanket, bolster, or block under the head and/or shoulders. This allows for a gentler stretch. Alternatively, you can place a block right under the sternum.
• For students, with hip discomfort, you can either: a) place a blanket under the hips, b) place a blanket or bolster under the back of the knees, c) have students rest their feet up against a wall, or d) students can bend their knees towards the buttock and bring their feet flat to the mat.
• Alternate placement of the hands and arms: a) Hands over chest in Prayer Mudra or Jupiter Mudra, b) Cactus arms with elbows on the mat and fingers pointing up, c) arms alongside the torso with the hands lightly placed on the outside of the upper thighs, d) arms straight in the air in Prayer Mudra or Jupiter Mudra or e) hands under the buttock with either arms and elbows straight, arms straight and elbows bent for support or elbows bent out to the side.
• For students, who feel discomfort in this pose, their face is turning red, or they have labored breath, they should practice Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) instead.
• For advanced students, they can do Flying Fish Pose or Raised Legs Pose (Uttana Padasana). Alternatively, they can practice Fish Pose with their legs in lotus.

Counter Poses
• Forward Bend, Seated (Paschimottanasana)
• Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana) or Shoulder Stand, Supported (Salamba Sarvangasana)
• Corpse Pose (Savasana)
• Wind Relieving (Pavanamuktasana)
• Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
• Supine Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)
• Hero (Virasana) or Supine Hero (Supta Virasana)
• Child’s Pose (Balasana) or Extended Child’s Pose (Utthita Balasana)

• Neck and Chest (Pectoralis Major and Minor)• Shoulders (Deltoids)
• Biceps and Triceps• Abdomen (Core) and Obliques
• Upper (Cervical), Middle (Thoracic), and Lower (Lumbar) Back• Hips (Psoas Major and Iliopsoas)
• Quadriceps and Hamstrings• Calf muscles
• Ankles• Feet

• Stretches and strengthens the chest, neck, shoulders, hips and psoas, which eases tension and stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
• Opens the chest, stimulating the respiratory system and increasing lung capacity. This is therapeutic for students with asthma.
• Stretches and strengthens the back and neck and increases flexibility in the upper back. This also helps with mild back aches and improves posture.
• Stimulates the cardiovascular system, increases blood supply to the cervical and thoracic region, assists the parathyroid, pituitary and pineal glands, as well as increases circulation in the throat. This stimulates the thyroid gland, helps soothe menstrual discomfort, and aids with digestion and constipation.
• Increased circulation also helps to stimulate the lymphatic system, which boosts immunity to disease and infections.
• Stimulates the nervous system, which reduces stress and anxiety, as well as relieves mild depression.
• Boosts energy, relieving chronic fatigue.

1. Students with frequent headaches or migraines should not practice without guidance. If they do practice this pose, it should be done very slowly.
2. Students with a severe neck injury, back injury, shoulder or arm injury, severe spondylitis, are pregnant, have heart complications, have insomnia, or have high/low blood pressure should avoid this pose.
3. If a student feels tightness in the neck or back while in this pose, they should stop immediately and rest in Corpse Pose (Savasana).
4. Students with general heart ailments may have difficulty breathing in this pose.
5. Students with osteoporosis or osteitis should avoid this pose, as it can cause a compression fracture.

Chakra Four:Heart, Love, or Anahata (Unstuck) Chakra. This is the love and equilibrium chakra. Its goals are balance, compassion, and acceptance. Its location is the heart.
Chakra Five:Throat, Visuddha, Vissudha, Vishuddhi, or Vishuddha (purification) Chakra. This is the communications and sympathetic vibrations chakra. Its goals are clear communication, creativity, and resonance. Its location is the throat.
Chakra Six:Third-Eye or Ajna (to perceive) Chakra. This is the intuition and projection chakra. Its goals are psychic perception and imagination. Its location is the brow.
Chakra Seven:Crown or Sahasrara (Thousandfold) Chakra. This is the understanding and consciousness chakra. Its goals are wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual connection. Its location is the top of the head.

Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – Supine and Prone Postures as “Matsyasana – Fish Pose”. **This textbook shows a variation where the legs are in Full Lotus (instead of laying straight out in front) ad the hands are in Prayer Mudra above the chest (instead of arms by the side palms facing down). This variation is typically more ideal for intermediate to advanced practitioners.
    • Watch the Chapter 9 video “Matsyasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthew, this posture can be found in Chapter 11 – SUPINE POSES as “MATSYASANA – Fish Pose”.

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