Matsyasana and supta vajrasana are two excellent backward bending asanas. They are perfectly suited as counterposes for forward bending asanas such as paschimottanasana', ardha padma paschimottanasana, janu sirsh-asana2, etc., as well as inverted asanas such as sarvangasana3. They also give characteristic benefits in their own right.
We are introducing them together because they give similar benefits. Generally, there is no need to practise both in an asana program. Choose the one that you like best.
MATSYASANA (FISH POSE)
In Sanskrit the word matsya means 'fish'. Therefore, this asana can be translated as 'the fish pose'. At first this may seem a strange name for an asana that seems to bear no resemblance whatsoever to any kind of fish. However, if you use a little imagination you can see that the folded legs in padmasana resemble the tail of a fish ; the rest of the body represents the body of the fish, and the head corresponds to the head ofthe fish. This is not difficult to imagine. But there is a better reason why this asana is called the fish pose: it is an excellent position for floating in water for prolonged periods of time.
The folded legs change the position of the centre of gravity (the centre of weight in the body); it moves nearer the head. This means that the head can be held higher above the water, allowing ease in respiration. Furthermore, since the legs are locked in a firm position, the body becomes more compact and rigid and therefore able to float in water with much less effort.
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