There are many variations of fish pose that provide a similar lengthening to the spine. The first rule, is to be comfortable. Classically, performed in a full lotus position, it can also be performed in half-lotus, one leg bent, or with the bottoms of the feet touching, arms behind head, arms underneath buttocks, or in your lap. I will introduce to you my classic variation of Matsyasana with one leg bent, hands underneath buttocks, crown of the head comfortably reaching the mat or earth below you. Do not struggle, do not force, you will always have a choice. Remember Yoga is the union of mind, body, spirit, and your breath is the toll free bridge.
Lie on your back, comfortably and easily. Bring your right arm underneath the right side of your body, palm turned down, and repeat with the left hand palm down underneath your body. Straighten both legs on the ground, or with one leg bent at knee with foot pressing into the earth below you. Inhale as deeply as you can and allow the breath to lift your chest toward the sky, and look back behind you, resting the crown of your head gently on the floor. This is a good time to place the tip of your tongue at the ridge of your mouth just behind the two front upper teeth. This is called tongue at fire point, and stimulates the longest nerve in your body, providing an additional jolt of energy throughout the body’s systems. Relax, release, close your eyes, breathing in and out about six times. When you feel ready, gently slide the back of your head to the floor and lower chest down. Bring your knees towards chest and slowly rock left and right. Be grateful, honoring the needs of your body. Hip rocks is a complimentary pose, massaging the lower back and muscles around the spine, hips, buttocks.
This beautiful asana, expands the chest area, strengthens your lungs, thyroid and parathyroid glands. Matsyasana aids metabolism, and enhances the functioning of calcium distribution throughout your body. This asana also releases tension from the pelvic joints. For those of you who have had hip replacements (like myself) you can place one foot on the floor and alternate your legs into your most comfortable position. Be flexible, breathe deeply and allow the breath to lift your chest, opening your heart, and throat area.
This exercise is not advisable if you have neck injuries, or lower back pain. Remember, you can always come into a variation that best suits your current needs, honor your body.
Variation 1: Lying on back, bring arms over head and clasp hands around opposite elbow or wrists. Bring bottoms of your feet together, relaxing knees out to the side. Take six to nine slow breaths in and out. Nourish each and every cell within your body, and notice how you feel. Listen to your body, it will guide you. Each and every day will be different.
Variation 2: Sitting in full lotus, or half lotus, gently lower down onto your back. Take a full deep breath while arching your back, gently lower your crossed legs to the floor. Maintain pose while breathing full deep breaths, allowing the breath to lift your chest off the mat. Feel the crown of your head connect to the earth below you and continue breathing in an out holding this position for about fifteen seconds, perhaps even longer. When ready, lower your back to the floor and slowly uncross your legs.
- Expands the chest.
- Strengthens lungs.
- Strengthens thyroid and parathyroid.
- Releases tension from the pelvic joints.
This is a lovely strength pose, and reminds you to surrender and release the full expression of your many gifts and talents. The asana supports your sense of feeling heard; and know that this beautiful pose enables you to express your truth without concern for censors or critics. This is my favorite pose for reminding me to experience the full benefits of The Law of Detachment which governs the chakra of expression.
Enjoy and Express!
Vajrasana – Diamond Pose
Vajrasana – Diamond Pose
This simple and beautiful asana encourages you to listen to the stillness that is inherently within. Vajrasana teaches us to recognize the sacred state of stillness. This asana guides us to be relaxed, to breathe in a relaxed manner and to move with awareness as we expand in our hearts, making room in our bodies for our spirits. Honoring this stillness, we find that the stresses of our daily life have less of an impact on us, and that we respond in a relaxed, conscious manner while in full awareness.
There are many reasons to practice yoga. Some people practice yoga to enhance their flexibility, deepen strength and balance, improve concentration and focus, or to lower their blood pressure. Regardless of your motivation or style, Vajrasana is a beautiful complimentary pose that you can use to enhance any style of yoga or fitness maintenance program. This asana can be done alone, or in a with a sequence of other motions, the benefits are enormous.
To Begin-Diamond Pose (Vajrasana)
On the floor or earth, begin on your knees with your body upright, gently lower yourself down until you are sitting on your heels. If you are unable to bring your hips to your heels, place a towel underneath your buttocks. Rest in full awareness and notice your breath flowing in and out of your body, easily and effortlessly. With eyes closed inhale breath through your nostrils with a 4-5-6 count, pause, and exhale 4-5-6 count, through the back of your nostrils. Imagine your breath nourishing each and every cell, celebrate the presence of your breath in your lungs and then slowly exhale through the back of your nostrils. (If you wish to engage your abdominal muscles more, exhale the breath slowly out your mouth with your lips gently relaxed and slightly parted.) There is no right or wrong way. I suggest you begin with five full deep inhalations and exhalations.
With the next inhalation, lift yourself off your heels. Stabilize, maintaining the length of the spine, shoulders back and down. and crown of your head in alignment with your spine. Pause-exhale and allow yourself to settle onto your heels. Become aware of your breathing and allow yourself to relax more deeply with each breath. You could do this asana four-five times depending on your strength. Activate, intend, envision energy freely flowing up your spine as you feel supported by the ground below you, your feet relaxed. Do this uplifting portion about five-seven times. The stronger you become you can add more sets of five to seven.
This is an energizing pose that awakens energy in the lower chakras. With practice you will see increasing flexibility in your hips, knees, and ankles. It provides benefits for people suffering with digestive disurbance and hemorrhoids.
Remind yourself that the diamond is a precious gem that has the highest spiritual frequency representing purity, nourishment and eternity. Vajrasana has the ability to restore clarity and is considered to have the power to cut through and remove obstacles from your life more easily. The diamond pose awakens the balanced state of mind-body integration that allows you to cut through ignorance with the wisdom of the infinite and unbounded field of life.
Do what is most nourishing and comfortable for your body. Breathe into any resistance, and eliminate extra effort. Maintain this asana while noticing and relaxing any tension in the eyes, face, tongue, jaw, neck, throat, shoulders, and abdomen. Pay attention and notice how your body feels. Keep a pleasant, relaxed expression on you face, let the radiance of your inner light permeate out from your soul.
Complimentary Poses-Balasana or Child’s Pose
Balasana or child’s pose is a comfortable resting posture that allows you to quiet your mind as your body settles into deeper states of relaxation. In many ways, this asana is equivalent of the fetal position, as you begin to experience the sense of inner safety.
Begin on your hands and knees (or table top), sit back on your heels. If your hips cannot connect to the heels of your feet, place a rolled towel, block or mat underneath your hips. Rest your forehead on the mat. You can either leave your arms extended in front of you with your palms turned down, or you can bring your hands to the outside of the ankles with the palms facing up. This is great asana for relieving lower back pain, and calms the brain, relieving stress and fatigue. This simple pose also strengthens your spine. Enjoy the complimentary pose, or do this position whenever you wish to quiet your mind, body and spirit and restore energy.
Chakrasana-Kneeling Wheel Pose
A powerful addition to Vajrasana. From Vajrasana, raise your hips up toward the ceiling and allow your head to relax backward, with your hands resting on the bottom of your feet, fingers pointing toward the back wall. If it is too difficult for your palmed hands to connect to the soles of your feet, try placing your hands on the back of your thighs. Allow your head to spill backward, and feel the support of your hands. Breathe easily into the stillness of this asana for a count of about ten seconds, then slowly lower your hips to your heels. Sit and breathe quietly in Vajrasana or continue with Chakrasana. Close your eyes, and with your attention in your spine, envision energy moving up from the base of your spine to your skull. This pose opens the pelvis and spine, strengthening the neck and back muscles. Remember you always have choices. These energy opening asanas will activate all your energy centers.
Listen to the needs of your body, honor all limitations and move gracefully into more expanded versions of Diamond Pose, Chakrasana, and Balasana. Have fun, and pay extra special attention if you have any of the injuries listed below. The number one rule of a great yoga practice is to be comfortable, and to honor the needs of your body. Practice with full awareness.
Complimentary Poses – Balasana/Vajrasana
- Neck injury
- Knee injury
- Ankle injury
- Shoulder injury
- Wrists injury
- Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Experience the grounding, the freedom.
Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutations
Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations strengthens the major muscle groups in your body. This beautiful sequence of movements can be done standing, sitting in a chair, on a bed or the floor. There is no right or wrong way to perform these life affirming movements. I encourage you to mindfully engage your breath, and let the breath preceed each and every movement. Follow the sounds of your breath as you are breathing in and out with a sense of stillness in movement. It is a set of six asana’s, repeated again on the other side. If I were to choose only one exercise a day, it would be the life affirming sequence of Sun Salutations. In a bed, on the floor or standing; the benefits are immediate and life affirming. You can perform the sun salutations slowly or energetically, you choose what best serves your body.
Sun Salutations on a chair or floor:
- Sitting on chair, floor, bring hands to heart – breathe normally and intend something in Salutation pose.
- Reach your hands to the Sky – Inhale a full deep breath.
- Hinge at the waist, allow your hands to touch the outside of your feet – Exhale Completely.
- Lift your left leg up, reach arms to the sky – Inhaling Breath.
- Complete Forward Bend – Exhale, your chest rests on your thighs, hands to feet.
- Forearms on Thighs, spine extended – Inhale deep breath.
- Cobra in a chair, Inhale deeper, bring your chest upward, chin and face rises to the sun.
- Hinge at waist, seated forward bend – Exhale all Breath.
- Right leg up, sky reaching with your hands and arms – Inhale.
- Hinge at waist, hands to feet pose – Exhale.
- Hands reach toward the sky – Inhale.
- Hands to heart – Exhale, Peace, Love.
For more information purchase The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, written by Drs. Deepak Chopra, and David Simon. Woven with practices by Claire E. Daib the Director of Yoga at Chopra Center University. I invite you to practice with me regularly, all levels welcome.
A video of Chair Sun Salutations available on You Tube: The Law of Least Effort, Deborah Shemesh and Linda Rouse.