Matysasana (fish pose)
1. Sit in padmasana and relax the whole body.
2. Carefully bend backward, supporting the body with the arms and elbows.
3. Lift the chest slightly, take the head back and lower the crown of the head to the floor.
4. Hold the big toes and rest the elbows on the floor.
5. Adjust the position of the head so that the maximum arch of the back is attained.
6. Relax the arms and the whole body, allowing the head, buttocks and legs to support the weight of the body.
7. Close the eyes and breathe slowly and deeply.
8. Return to the starting position, reversing the order of movements.
Repeat the asana, with the legs crossed the other way.
Note: While holding, maintain normal breathing.
Breathing: Breathe deeply and slowly in the final position.
Duration: The final position may be held for up to 5 minutes although 1 to 3 minutes is sufficient for general health.
Physical - on the abdomen, chest or breath.
Spiritual - on manipura or anahata chakra.
Sequence: Halasana or sarvangasana are the ideal counterposes as they stretch the neck in the opposite direction, releasing any muscular tension.
Contra-indications: People who suffer from heart disease, peptic ulcers, hernia, back conditions or any serious illness should not practise this asana. Pregnant women should also not attempt it.
Benefits: This asana stretches the intestines and abdominal organs and is useful for all abdominal ailments. To remove constipation, drink 3 glasses of water and then perform this asana. It also relieves inflamed and bleeding piles. This practice is very good for asthma and bronchitis as it encourages deep respiration. It recirculates stagnant blood in the back, alleviating backache and cervical spondylitis. It regulates the function of the thyroid gland and stimulates the thymus gland, boosting the immune system. The pelvic region is given a good stretch and the pressure of the feet on the thighs greatly reduces blood circulation in the legs, diverting it to the pelvic organs. This helps prevent and remove disorders of the reproductive system. The practice of sheetkari pranayama in the final position makes the voice sweet and steady, and relieves sore throat and tonsilitis. Youthfulness and vitality are increased.
Practice note: It is important that the body is slowly lowered into and raised from the final position by using the arms. The movement should be performed with control and care as it is very easy to injure the spine.
Note: The way of folding the legs in this asana resembles the tail of a fish while the rest of the body represents its body and head. However, there is another reason for the name fish pose'; this position is excellent for floating in water. The position of the legs changes the centre of gravity which means the head can be held higher above the water, facilitating respiration. As the body is compact and rigid, it is able to float with less effort.
Variation I: This variation follows the basic technique except for the position of the hands. Interlock the fingers of both hands. Place the hands behind the head and rest the back of the head in the open palms.
Variation 2: (for beginners) Sit with the legs stretched forward. Fold one leg, placing the foot on the opposite thigh as in ardha padmasana, the half lotus pose. Keep the other leg straight in front of the body. Slowly bend backward, using the elbows for support, and lower the crown of the head to the floor. Hold the foot of the bent leg with both hands. Accentuate the arch of the back as much as possible. Relax the whole body and close the eyes. Remain in the final position for a comfortable length of time and then return to the starting position. Repeat the same pose with the other leg folded. As an alternative, rest the back of the head on the floor instead of the top of the head.
Variation 3: Saral Matsyasana (for beginners) Stretch both legs straight in front of the body. Lean backward, using the arms for support, and rest the top of the head on the floor. Arch the back and place both palms on the thighs or let them rest on the floor. Return to the starting position after some time in the final position.