In our Favorite Pose Profile, we hear from members of our teaching staff about their favorite yoga pose. We learn about why they enjoy the pose and what modifications they might recommend for students working on the pose for the first time. This month, we feature Amy Jill Hardiek and Fish Pose. Amy teaches on Tuesday afternoons from 4:30-5:30p.
“My favorite pose is Restorative Fish pose using two foam blocks, because it’s such a fabulous shoulder and upper body opener. Often I open my class with this pose. I used to have no flexibility in my upper spine. As I integrated this pose into my practice every day, it completely opened up my upper back.
This is important to counter act the effects of everyday living hovering over computers or desks, and also to be able to do more intense back bending poses, like full wheel or camel without straining the low back.
To do the pose, you take one block lying it lengthwise on your mat. This will be the block that goes between the shoulder blades so they can relax down toward the floor. It can be low or medium height. The second block goes under the head a few inches away from the first block. It can be placed the same height as the first block or maybe slightly higher to be easier on the neck. Lying down on the blocks with knees still bent, slightly tuck the pelvis upward by lifting the hips and drawing the belly button back toward the spine. Then gently set the sacrum back down on the floor. This will create a more neutral low back position. Then extend the legs long if that feels okay. If long legs don’t feel good, this pose can be done with constructive rest legs-feet wide with knees resting together- or a bolster under the knees. Really, any leg position can work. The main point of the pose is the blocks under the shoulders and head.
If the blocks don’t feel good, sometimes draping a blanket over the blocks will help. If that still doesn’t feel good, using a different support such as a trifold blanket can be helpful. To make a trifold blanket, first fold your blanket into quarters. Then take the long edge and fold into thirds, like folding a letter, but long edge, not short. Then the top edge can be folded over like a pillow for the head. I usually fold the fringe side for my head, because it feels more comfy behind my neck then on my back. The fringe could also be turned down toward the floor instead of upward. The blanket can then start around low back or waist. If you want a height in between the blocks and the blanket, take the bottom portion of the blanket and fold it up part way, then take a second blanket to drape over the top portion and support the head.
This is a very relaxing pose that can be held as long as it feels good. To release out of the pose bend one or both of your knees, and my preferred option is to use hands and arms supportively to gently roll the spine straight up off the blocks. The other option is to carefully roll to your side off of the blocks and rest with hands or arms as a pillow for the head for a few breaths, and then use the hands to gently press up to sit. The reason I like the first one is I had a back issue at one point in time where sitting up from a side lying position hurt me.
After doing this pose, a few seated pelvic tilts (cat/cow spine) or gentle twists can feel good.”
-Amy Jill Hardiek