Mermaid Pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana variation
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana variation – Mermaid pose is an advanced variation of Pigeon pose that combines the deep, hip-opening stretch with a vibrant, heart-opening backbend. An elegant expression of grace and power, the pose invites us to channel our innermost mermaid (or merman!) to find lightness in our bodies and our minds and tap into our fluid nature. Note that the pose can be challenging, and should be approached with caution, particularly if you are new to the practice and/or if you have difficulty with Pigeon pose.
1. Come into Pigeon pose with your right leg forward, and your right heel in line with your left hip. Place your hands beside your hips and find an even distribution of weight across the left and right sides of your body.
2. Inhale to find length along your spine, and as you exhale, square your hips and shoulders forward toward the front of your mat.
3. Adjust the position of your right shin appropriately so that there is no pain in your right knee — the closer your right heel is to your groin, the less intense of a stretch you’ll feel in your outer right hip. And the more parallel your right shin is to the front edge of the mat, the deeper the stretch will feel.
4. If you can comfortably bring your right shin parallel to the front edge of your mat, then flex your right foot and press the pinky toe edge of your right foot into the floor; otherwise, keep the top of your right foot down.
5. Take several full, deep breaths here to ease into the stretch. When you feel ready to go further, begin to bend your left knee and draw your left foot in towards your body.
6. Reach back with your left hand and take a hold of the top of your left foot. Pause here if you need to. To go further, slowly slide your left foot up your inner forearm and into the crook of your left elbow, and inhale to extend your right arm up high.
7. Bend your right elbow and reach back behind your head to clasp your hands. Point your right elbow straight up toward the ceiling and press your head back gently into your arms as you simultaneously press your left foot into the crease of your elbow.
8. Draw your tailbone straight down toward the ground and point your hips and shoulders forward. Send your gaze slightly upwards, and keep your face soft.
9. Remain in the pose for up to 5 breaths, then gently release the bind on an exhale, plant your palms in front of you, and slowly step to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side whenever you feel ready.
Benefits Of Mermaid Pose
Mermaid pose stretches the quadriceps, hips, groins, back, chest and shoulders. The pose also strengthens the core and pelvic floor, creates expansiveness through the front body, and can help to improve balance.
When practicing Mermaid Pose, it’s important to remain calmly focused while maintaining alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- The further forward your front heel is, the deeper and more intense the pose will be. You might need to bend your front knee deeply. Over time, with practice and patience, you will be able to bring your shin more parallel to the front edge of the mat.
- Keep your front foot flexed to help protect your knee.
- Use the strength of your legs to help lift your spine. Actively using your legs in this pose will help to prevent compression in your lower back.
- Keep your spine actively lifting and extending throughout the pose.
- Listen to your body and practice within your limits. Never force the backbend. Instead, be patient and practice often.
Mermaid Pose can add lightness and grace to your yoga practice. Be sure to modify the pose as needed, and ease up if you feel any pinching or jarring pain in your back or neck. Here are a few simple modifications that will lighten or deepen the pose for you:
- If you can’t yet rest your foot in the crease of your elbow, use a strap. Loop a yoga strap around your back foot and hold onto both ends of the strap with your top hand. Let your bottom hand rest on your front thigh.
- If the full backbend is too intense for you, release your top hand back onto your lowered (front) thigh for support.
- If your front-leg hip does not come all the way to the floor, place a folded blanket under your hip for extra support.
- Keep your front shin as parallel to the front edge of your mat as possible. If your hips are tight, your front shin might angle back toward your opposite-leg hip. That is fine. With practice, the flexibility in your hips will increase.
Mermaid Pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Counter Poses
In yoga we use a counter pose in a sequence; For example, a twist follows a backbend to “neutralise” the spine, or a forward bend follows a backbend to help lengthen the spine and calm the nervous system.