Julie MacAdam

Fish pose, evocative by name, brings to my mind fishes of all kinds, and the fishermen with poles in hand and lines casted out. I am reminded of summer time; times by the ocean in Maine where I would watch people sitting on the jetty rocks for hours waiting for what might bite the bait. When I come into fish pose I think about that as a metaphor in my life: what temptations am I following that may actually pull me away from my home? What bait am I biting? The fish that chase those silvery and shining hooks aren’t foolish. They are following what they think will serve them well, what will provide them nourishment of some kind, or at least satisfy a desire. The same is true for me: sometimes I follow things out of desire that I believe will support me and in those moments, just like the fish, discernment would be a very useful skill to apply.

The second cakra, Svadhisthana, is governed by the element of water. There, a alligator fish resides named Makara, who is endlessly hungry for more. More of anything and everything. It is here where imagination and fear live, and where desire breeds. When I apply awareness to desire I can see that some point me towards the highest, and others push me upstream, making my life more of a challenge that it has to be. It isn’t desire in itself that is a negative thing; it is more the quality of my desires and what they bring out in me. What happens when I follow my desires? Do they bring out Makara, more craving, insatiability, and dissatisfaction? Or do they lift me up towards my heart with aspiration, intention, and hope? And how do these relate to my imagination, to my fears?

Fishes are at home in water; whether they live in ponds, streams, lakes, or oceans. They navigate through subtle sensing and by flowing with currents. They cannot be forced to flow; it happens rather naturally and with ease. I find that it serves me well to cooperate and relax into the own current of my life rather than putting up resistance. Sometimes, I very well and stubbornly act upon my self-will and ignore Her messages; eventually, though, I tire and wish again to be carried downstream.

At other times fish are kept in tanks. There are always some type of limitations in life. I find myself drawn to look into the idea of freedom within limitation and what happens to the freedom when limitations arise. Where do I focus my energy, on what is limiting and constraining me, or on how to work within the limitation and cultivate my mobility? I find through this exploration that familiarity can be a limitation; that feeling of comfort, of “normalcy”. Sometimes, I can get used to living in a tank, or perhaps I don’t know of too much else; I take that as my true home. How else would I know what is possible? It is through glimpses of something greater that I begin to understand the tank is not all there is. With some limitations, I can release them; others I need to find my harmony with them.

In deep waters there is so much that I cannot see. It has me wonder how much of my choices are made from these unconscious, under water places that I am unaware of. How I can bring these to the surface? They may be my unconscious beliefs and narratives, stories I have about myself, others, and the world, all having an effect and shaping my life. Why wouldn’t I want to know such things; to know will give me the opportunity to access if they are a help or a hindrance.

Warm-ups It is important to warm up the neck and shoulders for fish pose. You can work with neck rolls, either full circles or half moons and shoulder rolls. Alexander shoulder stretch can also help to prepare the shoulders. Standing or kneeling hare pose can open the shoulders as well as prepare the chest for the expansion in fish pose. Cobra pose is another way to open the chest and heart as a preliminary for fish. I also find Cobra helpful as a way to continue to warm the spine, following cat stretches or bridge.

Cool-downs After fish pose it is good to again release the neck by looking to the left and to the right. Bringing the knees towards the chest and rocking side to side is supportive to the low back. Supine side twist flows well after coming out of the posture and offers the spine a different movement. Shoulderstand, if it is well within your practice, can offer the opposite movement of the neck and act as a counterbalance.

Alignment Keep the legs together and see that the spine is straight. Keep the elbows underneath the shoulders and close towards the body unless lifting with namaste hands at the heart.

Entering/Exiting There are a few different ways to come into fish pose; if you have another way of entering that your practice feel free to do that.

Come to lye on the back.

Place the hands face down underneath the low back and draw the fingers towards the toes; tucking the elbows close together and elongating the arms.

Press the elbows into the floor and lift the chest towards the sky, then, slowly lower the head onto the ground below you. Keep most of the body weight on the elbows to protect the neck. Continue to lift the chest upwards.

Keep the eyes open and see what it is like to look backwards.

To come out of the pose, press actively into the elbows, lift the head and tuck the chin towards the chest.

Slowly lower the back body onto the floor and release the arms by the sides.


What in you is hooked that wants to be free? Where is there freedom in you already? What is the relationship between limitation and freedom for you?

When coming into the pose you can consider your true home and apply your imagination: What might that place be like, feel like? Do you live from that place? What helps you to get back there?

Bring to mind a challenging situation and consider these questions: Are you moving with the current or going upstream? What shifts could be made to move in greater harmony with this situation?