In honour of Valentine’s Day, I’m teaching a heart-opening sequence in my 8:15pm Yin Yoga class at Bound Lotus ♥. The flow I’ve put together starts off with supported fish pose. The traditional version of fish (known as Matsyasana in Sanskrit) is an amazing chest opener and the modified version of the posture is more decadent and restorative, but still impactful.
Fish is all about reaching your chest up, while relaxing your lower body. Detailed instructions for getting into supported fish (and getting out!) follow.
If legs up the wall is the one pose I think everyone should do after a lower body workout (running, cycling, hiking, walking in heels), then fish is certainly the one pose I’d suggest for releasing any emotional issues (my friend and fellow teacher Nadine likely agrees 🙂 ). Holding fish pose (and supported fish) can dispel all kinds of long-held chest-tension, which sometimes leads to a huge emotional release (read: it’s totally okay to cry while/after doing fish).
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Supported fish pose
Why it’s good
- Increases lung capacity, which makes it great for asthmatics and athletes, and flushes mucus from the lungs
- Corrects the tendency to round shoulders, which collapses the energy centre at the heart (anahata chakra), and breaks up tension in the mid- and upper-back
- Strengthens and gently tones the muscles along your spine
- Stretches abdominal muscles and creates internal space for internal organs
- Lots of emotional and energetic benefits
- Activates the throat energy centre (vishudda chakra), which is related to the way you express yourself
- Releases grief and helps dispel old emotions by opening the heart energy centre (anahata chakra)
How to do it
- Sit on your mat with knees bent, feet on the floor; snug the short end of a bolster against your lower back/buttocks – you can also use a firm pillow or rolled blanket if you don’t have a bolster
- Using a bolster eases pressure and demand on your back muscles; the closer you place the bolster to your buttocks, the greater the stretch
- Use your arms and hands to slowly lower your back, neck, and head onto the bolster
- If your head doesn’t rest rest on the bolster, pillow, or rolled blanket, bring in another prop to support it
- If the stretch is too intense in your lower back, place a foam chip block, pillow, or folded blanket under your buttocks
- Straighten your legs along the mat; bring your heels together and let your big toes relax to the sides, forming the shape of a fishtail with your feet
- Rest your arms on the floor, at least 45° away from your body, and turn your palms up
- Tuck your chin into your chest slightly; relax your jaw, throat, and shoulders; disengage the muscles in your abdomen, hips, and legs
- Settle into the pose; inhaling deeply into your chest and relaxing your shoulders, hips, and legs with each exhale
- Remain still for up to 10 minutes, breathing smoothly and feeling your chest expand and contract with each breath
To come out of supported fish:
- Bend your knees and rest your feet flat on the floor
- Roll to side off the bolster into fetal pose; take a deep breath in fetal pose before removing the bolster and any other props used
- Release any tension in your back by holding your knees into your chest and rolling on your back
- It’s nice to link fish to a forward fold (like butterfly or caterpillar) or a reclining twist to counter the backward bend
- Take a look at the Yin Yoga website’s list of asanas (poses) for guidance on doing forward folds and twists