Matsyasana -The Fish



Etymology: Matsya मत्स्य : fish


Matsya was the first of the ten Avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu. He is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a man and the lower of a fish. When the primoridal flood came, Vishnu saved the mortal Manu Vaivasvata. This mortal found a small fish, which asked his protection. The fish grew rapidly, and Manu recognized it as Vishnu incarnate. At the fish's command, Manu embarked in a ship together with the Rishis and the seeds of all existing things, and the ship, bound to the fish's great horn, was preserved during the Flood. Finally it rested on a peak of the Himalayas. Matsya later found back in the waters the Veda that was hidden by the demon Hayagriva. He also saved the seven sages (saptarsi) during the primordial flood.



The legs can be crossed, bent wit the plantar aspects of the feet touching, in half lotus or in lotus. This posture is known for allowing one to familiarize with non-breathing. Indeed, the fish is the one not needing air.

Starting Point

In any of the above sitting positions (here the lotus), upon exhalation, one takes support on the elbows. A complete breathing is done in this intermediary position. Eyes are open and fixing a point in front of the face.

matsyasana 1


Upon the next exhalation, while spreading the elbows, tilt the head backward and arch the trunk until the skull comes into contact with the ground. The head is then used as a support. Elbows can slide sideways during the process. At the end, the weight of the trunk is transferred away from them.

matsyasana 1


Phase 1

matsyasana 1

Once supported and stable on the top of the head, the eyes remain open and fix a point behind the horizontal line, neither too high, nor too low, thus near the ground. Using the skull support, one arcs the body so that an even curve is formed. The hands can come on the stomach and form a triangle (as in this example). Otherwise, they can hold the feet while the elbows continue to be on the ground as complementary support to relieve the pressure exerted on the head and neck:

matsyasana 1

In this position, Nivritti Pranayama is applied. Otherwise, visamavritti is used with a 4/16/8/0 rhythm.

Mula Bandha is strongly applied and one focuses on feeling the link between the root and the top of the skull. This concentration is major: the energy should be perceived as condensing in the spine.

Phase 2

matsyasana 1


Upon an exhalation, while spreading the elbows completely, slide the head to have the body come flat on the grown. Insure that the back is flat on the grown, especially the lumbar region. Close the eyes, and upon the following inhalation, bring the arms backward, hands holding the opposite elbows. Hold the position in full-lung retention without putting a count on it. Simply focus on the glabella and on the link between the root and the top of the head. Exhale slowly and start again.

In this phase, the breathing must be freed. During the inhalation, take air in, and then hold the air comfortably, without constraint, as long as possible. During the exhalation, breathe out slowly and fully.

It is possible that the full-lung retention is long. One should not worry about it and continue the exercise focusing on remaining comfortable, and on the feeling that irradiates in the whole body from the spine and the center of the heart. This phase needs to be peaceful and enjoyable: one must taste the energy and the inner sensation.



Matsyasana Leg Variation