[Pose of the Week] How to Do Mermaid Pose (Advanced)
Mermaid Pose is an advanced yoga pose that opens the hips and chest and helps you explore your body’s fluidity. Here’s how to do it – and some cautions before you try it…
Mermaid Pose is an advanced version of one of my favorite yoga poses of all time – One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (often just called Pigeon Pose). This pose deepens and intensifies the hip stretch while adding a more advanced back bend, so you should be sure you are fully comfortable with Pigeon Pose first, and also warm up your hips and thighs thoroughly before trying Mermaid.
Besides providing a deep hip stretch, Mermaid Pose also stretches the thighs and groin, chest, shoulders and front of the torso. It is also known as a heart-opening pose, and it strengthens the abdominal muscles and stimulates some of the internal organs as well.
Those with recent or chronic injury to the shoulders, knees, or ankles should avoid this pose, as well as those with heart disease or blood pressure issues. If you have spine or back injuries, you should only attempt this pose with the guidance of an experienced instructor. (Here are a few more cautions to be aware of before practicing Mermaid Pose.) Be sure to listen to your body, and work only to the edge of your comfort zone – not beyond.
Here are instructions from YogaOutlet.com for performing Mermaid Pose:
- Begin in Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Spread your fingers, lengthen your spine, lift your hips, and draw down firmly through your heels.
- On an exhalation, bend your right knee and bring it forward between your hands. Place your right ankle on the floor near your left wrist, and your right knee near your right wrist. Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your kneecap and the top of your foot on the floor.
- Press through your fingertips as you lift your torso away from your thigh, lengthening the front of your body. Release your tailbone back toward your heels. This is One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana).
- Draw down through your right leg’s shin and balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips. Pull your thighs slightly inward toward the midline of your body.
- Use the strength and stability of your legs to help lift and extend your spine even higher.
- Rest your right hand gently on your right thigh. Bend your left knee. Reach your left hand back and clasp the inner edge of your left foot. Then slowly bring your left foot to the inside of your left forearm. Glide your foot closer toward your body until your foot rests in the crease of your left elbow. Press your foot firmly into your arm to activate your legs.
- With your spine long and extended, lift your right arm overhead. Bend your right elbow and reach your right forearm behind your head. Clasp your left hand.
- Square your hips and torso toward the front of your mat as much as possible. Press through your feet and legs to help activate your pelvic core and lift your spine.
- Gaze slightly up toward the sky. Keep your face and eyes soft.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths. To release, gently let go of your left leg and extend it along the floor behind your body. Bring your hands to the floor in front of you. Tuck your left toes, and step back into Downward-Facing Dog. Then repeat on the other side for the same length of time.
To Modify the Pose:
Modify as needed to suit your ability and comfort level. You may want to use a strap to loop around the back foot if you are not quite flexible enough to bring it all the way into your elbow crease. Hold onto both ends of the strap with your top hand, and rest your bottom hand on your front thigh for support.
You can also simply keep both hands on your front thigh if the backbend is too intense for you.
If the hip of your front leg does not touch the floor, you can support it with a folded blanket during the stretch. It is okay if your front shin angles back towards your opposite hip, but eventually, as your hip flexibility improves, you will want to try to align your front shin parallel with the front edge of your mat.
Be sure to keep your front foot flexed to protect your knee, and keep the legs active to take stress off the lower back.
This is an advanced pose, so don’t be in a hurry to get it perfect. Be patient with yourself and listen to your body. As with all yoga, the journey is its own reward!