Matsyasana, or Fish Pose, is a wonderful asana that works wonders to counter the effects of our forward-oriented daily activities such as driving, working at a computer or desk, and even reading a book. As we move through the day, our activities naturally encourage a rolling forward of the shoulders and a slouch in the spine, which can cause tightness across the upper back and shoulders and into the neck. Having someone massage your shoulders and neck is a pleasant way to help release this tightness, yet once the massage is done the muscles will tighten back up because they are being extended to their capacity by our daily activities.
Taking Matsyasana counters this effect and helps to release the upper back, shoulders, and neck by opening the chest. To come into this posture, lie down on your mat, then scoot your hands underneath your tailbone. Bring the elbows into your sides and rise up to support your torso on your forearms and elbows. Allow your head to gently fall back and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing the knees to open wide. If bringing the soles of the feet together creates strain in the hips, simply stretch the legs forward and out to a comfortable position.
Matsyasana is such a wonderful posture to help open and broaden the chest. Through opening and broadening the chest muscles we remove the strain that is placed on the shoulders, neck and upper back, thus allowing those muscles to be relaxed rather than over extended. Yet it might be difficult to hold this posture for a long period of time. Modifying this posture by using props can change this into a posture that you can comfortably hold for an extended period of time. By placing a block or a bolster under your shoulder blades and then laying down so that your back is supported and the bend is present in the spine, you can adjust your body to be more comfortable as you allow the block to support you. This will allow you to hold this backbend for as long as you are comfortable, helping to open and broaden the chest with each breath you take.
If this is too much pressure on the neck then place a block underneath your head to take that pressure away. Other modifications include spreading the arms and the legs wide. With each exhale, let your body sink a little deeper into the posture, eventually allowing yourself to fully relax while your chest is slowly and gently stretched.
Taking time to rest in a supported Matsayasana can do much to help improve your posture and ease the aches and pains that might be plaguing your shoulders, neck, and upper back. Not to mention the benefits that come from being able to completely relax for a little while as you sink deeper into the posture. The results might just surprise you, so take a half hour and let yourself relax into Fish Pose, knowing that as you do you’re helping to improve your posture and your overall comfort in your own body.