How to Do Mermaid Pose in Yoga
Mermaid Pose is an advanced variation of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) that deepens the backbend and opens the hips even more. As you practice the pose, you can imagine that your legs and hips create the tail of a mermaid (or merman), having all of the looseness and fluidity of a sea-swimming creature.
As with One-Legged King Pigeon Pose, be sure to warm up your hips and thighs thoroughly before attempting this pose. Some good poses to try include Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana), Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I), and Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana).
Benefits of Mermaid Pose
When Mermaid Pose is performed in correct alignment, it creates freedom throughout the entire front torso. It also lifts and opens the heart. This pose also provides a deep stretch to the thighs, groins, shoulders, and chest. It improves mobility in the spine and hips, strengthens the abdominal muscles, and stimulates the organs of the torso.
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to the shoulder, knee, ankle, or sacroiliac. Also avoid this pose if you are currently experiencing high or low blood pressure, or heart disease. Those with spine or back injuries should only attempt this pose under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor. Only practice this pose if you can correctly and comfortably perform One-Legged King Pigeon Pose. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- 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.
Modifications & Variations
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.
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.
In yoga, you begin to understand the interconnectedness between each part of your body. Opening the hips and stretching the spine creates length and strength throughout the rest of the body. This creates a sense of coordination, grace, and ease that stays with you in all aspects of life, even outside of your yoga class. Mermaid Pose can be an uplifting way to bring flexibility and lightness to your regular practice and beyond!