Matsyasana, Fish Pose

A Pivotal Moment in Fish Pose: Sivananda Yoga Posture Stories

By Bea Doyle

Over time, our experience of yoga asanas evolves beyond the physical — the postures become our teachers and companions, showing us our relationship with ourselves and the world. Enjoy this collection of stories submitted by Sivananda Yoga practitioners from around the world, sharing their in-depth connections with each asana of the Sivananda sequence. This post focuses on Matsyasana, Fish Pose.

After what I like to call “dabbling” in yoga classes and practices for several years throughout the 70’s and 80’s, I returned to Canada in 1992. It seemed natural that this curious but fledgling ‘yogini’ would seek out a serious yoga teacher and commit to attending classes more seriously.

I was fortunate to quickly find my teacher, Joan, in a newly opened studio near my home. At the time I was a single mother to a lively 6 year old son, working full-time in a new career and attempting to develop community along like-minded seekers. As I reflect on this period, I realize what courage it must have taken for me to manage these priorities and still engage in an active yoga practice.

The classes with Joan took place several times a week and I seldom missed them. I was drawn to the long and deep breathing, as well the increasing comfort in the postures. My holds became longer as Joan would remind me: “softly breathe toward your edge.” I felt safe to progress with such a compassionate guide.

One class she guided us to slowly come onto our backs and prepare for a series of backbends — heart opening asanas. After several warm-ups she guided us into the fish pose, also known as matsyasana.

I knew my body was ready for this deep posture, and I gradually prepared by lengthening onto the mat, sliding my hands under my buttocks, and slowly guiding the weight of my body onto my elbows — gently lifting my chest and heart upward. I relaxed my head back and my breathing became even longer and deeper.

Though my eyes were closed, I was aware of Joan moving toward me, and she asked if I would like an assist. When I gave her permission I could sense her leaning over my body, wrapping her hands behind my neck, and ever so slowly and softly, moving her fingers down each vertebrae of my spine. With a gentle massage, encouraging my back to relax, I felt the muscles release. As my chest lifted higher as she moved from the top of my spine all the way down to the small of the back.

It was a profound and elevating experience. I felt a deep integration — a oneness of my body, mind, and spirit, as well as a loving and respectful connection with this knowledgeable teacher. I felt my heart open wide, and my eyes misted over with emotions of the moment. Gratitude and joy flooded my being.

Without the deep respect and confidence I felt for Joan, I would never have been able to trust enough to relax into this experience. I recall thinking, “Ah yes … this is yoga.”

This was my most pivotal of moments of my yoga practice — the moment I realized how much this sacred practice had to teach me. I still remember it as a significant and memorable yoga experience and the beginning of my conscious yoga journey.

Today, many years later, when I guide myself into the fish pose, my body recalls the first time my heart softly opened in the posture. The body remains, for me, the wisest of teachers. Through my practice of matsyasana, layer by layer, tightness and armouring has been replaced with love, compassion, patience, and joy … for myself and for others.


Every week from January 1 – March 26, 2018, we will be sharing a new story — You can access all of the current ones here.

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