It is wintertime. One of the best seasons to practice yoga simply because it is an excellent indoor activity. In the chinese tradition, wintertime is a time to focus on balancing the Kidney Energy (Qi). One way to access the Kidney Qi is to practice backbends. And since it is February, it is also nice to focus on poses that open the heart. One of the myriad backbending asanas to choose from is Matsyasana or Lord of the Fishes pose. Yoga Journal has a good description for practicing Matsyasana. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a good video description of this pose, so we will just have to create one...
As this pose is not accessible to all practitioners, one way to practice Matsyasana is with the use of props. For a gentle backbend, take a firm blanket and roll it long ways, so that it is wider than your shoulders, place the blanket underneath your shoulderblades. Work towards pressing into your elbows and forearms to open the front of the chest. After practicing in this manner for several practice sessions, you may consider practicing with a yoga block underneath your shoulder blades as an alternative. The use of the yoga block will help to lift your chest much higher than the rolled blanket and will allow you to explore opening the throat. Press firmly into your elbows and forearms to get the lift in the chest to allow you to practice placing the crown of the head on the floor. Until this is possible you can put a blanket underneath your head to the appropriate height.
We found some incredible photos of yogis practicing Matsyasana that we thought we would share. For more information on the photo, please click on the photo and this will take you directly the photographer's photostream.
Listen to the Pronunciation of Matsyasana. Courtesy of the Online Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide [audio:http://www.ihanuman.com/media/audio/Sanskrit/Asanas/Matsyasana.mp3]