Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Benefits of Matsyendrasana (Lord of the Fishes):
Releases stiffness in the hips, back, sides of the body, and chest
Tones the spinal nerves and makes the spine more flexible
Aids the digestive system by massaging abdominal organs
Regulates functioning of the pancreas and the adrenal glands
Increases blood circulation, especially in the pelvic region
Matsyesndrasana translates from Sanskrit as The Pose of the Lord of the Fishes, and might make you wonder - what does fish have to do with yoga and who was that mysterious Lord of the Fishes? According to the legend Matsyendranath (the sage the asana was named after) was born under an unlucky star. After the death of his parents, he was thrown into an ocean where a giant fish swallowed him. This fish swam to the very bottom of the ocean where Lord Shiva (one of the most powerful Hindu gods) himself was sharing his knowledge on yoga with his wife. Matsyendranath listened to the teachings and began practicing yoga in the belly of the fish. After being released from his captivity, he emerged from the ocean as an enlightened sage and went on to spread the knowledge of Hatha yoga across the world.
Now that we know the story itself, we can begin to dig deeper and search for the lessons behind the story and how these lessons translate into the pose itself. First of all, it might be useful to remember that all characters in the myths represent various parts of ourselves. The legend of Matsyendranath is not an exception. We are not one, but all of the characters in the story.
- We are the people who threw the sage into the deep waters. We become them when we let the circumstances take control over us and forget that we have the power to choose what these circumstances mean to us.
- We become Matsyendranath in the belly of the fish when we retreat inward to hide from these circumstances.
- Shiva and his wife symbolize our wise inner voice. It is always with us, guiding us. All we need to do is hear it.
- Once we develop the awareness to hear our inner voice and master the courage to follow it, we become the version of Matsyendranath practicing yoga inside the belly of the fish.
- And finally, after learning the lesson we needed to learn, we become the great sage Matsyendranath. We are ready to share the knowledge we gained in the process to support others.
There are multiple lessons in the legend of Matsyendranath. It shows us the power of seeing the wisdom in challenging situations we face. These circumstances point towards the potential areas of growth within ourselves. As we recognize that we don't need to change the external situations, we need to change ourselves first, the progress begins. We find a space where we feel safe and undisturbed to listen to our inner voice and work on ourselves. After the work is done, we can reemerge the surface as wiser, more content beings.
We can see these lessons in the pose itself. Matsyendrasana can feel like a restrictive pose when we perform it. After we release it though, we feel immense relaxation. Through this pose we learn to recognize potential for growth and freedom in challenges and seeming limitations.