in Be Yoga

The Most Important Yoga Pose

If I had to pick only one yoga pose that everyone should know and practice, it is this one.

If I had to pick just ONE posture that everybody would learn and practice, whether they have a regular yoga practice or this is the ONLY posture they do, it would be Supported Fish. (Matsyasana)  It feels great to open the spine, shoulders and chest, especially since we live in a culture of sitting: sitting in cars, sitting in front of computers, sitting on couches to watch TV, etc.  All the sitting we do puts our spines into a forward bending, slumped position frequently, or in some cases constantly!  We can end up with neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, or all of the above due to our spines being in a perpetual slumped position.  Our rounded spines also do not allow our respiratory, digestive and circulatory organs to function at maximum efficiency. (try taking a deep breath in a slouch, then try again sitting up tall and feel the difference!)

Supported fish is a passive way to counteract the slouchiness of our spines and help bring them into healthier alignment.  It is great to do first thing in the morning to wake up your body, or to refresh your body after a long day at work.  There are MANY variations of supported fish, but today’s examples will be the most gentle variations using a yoga blanket or a towel. I’ll post more intense variations next week.

Variation 1 – folded blanket

A folded blanket is the most gentle variation of supported fish, as it provides the least amount of lift under the upper spine.  Less lift is great for your first time in supported fish, or if you have particularly tight shoulders or upper spine, or if you have frequent neck pain.  If you don’t have a yoga blanket, these blankets are what I use at my studio (Ananda Yoga, come visit me! :) ), or you can substitute a towel as demonstrated below.

Place the folded blanket under your spine so the bottom tips of your shoulder blades are just over the edge of the fold.  Lie down on your back and let your head rest on the floor.   Extend your arms straight out from the shoulders with palms facing up.


This is the approximate position of the blanket once you are lying down.

Supported fish with a small blanket fold.

Make sure your neck and shoulders are comfortable, lengthen out the back of the neck rather than tilting the head back and compressing the back of the neck.

Try not to tilt your head back and compress the back of the neck.

Rather, lengthen the back of the neck.

If you do not feel “anything” in this position, you probably need a little more height under the spine.  You can fold the blanket to be thicker as shown below, or stack two blankets one on top of the other…

From the previous variation, I folded the blanket in half to make a larger fold.

…or you can move to the next variation.

Variation 2 – rolled up blanket

A rolled up blanket extends the upper spine a bit more.  You can adjust the roll size to find the amount of stretch and opening you would like to feel.  Once again, the neck and shoulders should be comfortably stretched.

Start with the blanket folded like this.

You can roll the blanket partially.

Or roll it up all the way!
You can also fold the blanket back in half again so it looks like the pic below, and roll it up from that point to create an even bigger roll, like a mini yoga bolster!

Roll from this point for the highest variation of a blanket roll.

Your roll will look like this.

Variation 2.a  - rolled up beach towel

If you don’t have a yoga blanket at home, you can substitute a rolled up bath towel or beach towel! If you want a larger roll, use two towels and roll them up together!

One beach towel…

Or two!

Once you have picked a variation you like, allow your body to soften into the posture for anywhere from 10 breaths to 5 minutes!  Try it every day for a week, so how much better your back, neck, and shoulders will feel!

Originally published here:


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