Fish Pose (Matsayasana) is one of the most powerful chest-expanding and anti-slumping asanas.
Normally done after, and as a counter-pose to, Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana), this pose also gives a backward stetch to the whole spine - the thoracic, lumbar and cervical areas.
For this reason, it's one of the best asanas to counter the negative, hunching effects of poor posture and too much computer work!
Matsayasana is also a calming, opening posture. The breath should be taken deep into the lungs. Feel the the ribs rise and fall as you inhale, exhale.
* Increases lung capacity. This asana is named 'fish' because of the way the lungs are filled with air, improving our ability to float in water.
* Stretches the hip flexors (psoas) and muscles (intercostals) between the ribs.
*Asthma suffers may well benefit - Matsayasana releives spasms in the bronchial tubes.
* Massages the neck and shoulder region and helps correct rounded shoulders and poor posture.
* Counters stress and mental agitation.
* Regulates calcium (vital for strong bones and teeth) levels into the blood: the body's energy is centred on the parathyroid glands in this posture.
Pointers to remember
* Hold the pose for up to 90 seconds. Beginners can aim for around 20 seconds - this is quite an intense stretch. It can also be useful to perform asana with the back placed on a thickly rolled blanket.
* Keep the body and knees straight and hold the feet together, without tensing them.
* Try to keep the back, rather than the top, of the head on the floor.
* Importantly, make sure the weight is on the arms and elbows, not the head.
* Experienced students can take the legs into Lotus (Padmasana). However, this is neither necessary or desirable unless Padmasana can be done easily.
Image taken with kind permission of Chelmsford's dedicated yoga and pilates studio, yogaviva