The Immunity-Builder

Matsyasana is one of the finishing postures in the ashtanga system and Digna Popat’s go-to pose for strengthening immunity.

The essence of the Bhagavad Gita is ‘change is the universal law’. Yoga has always played a pivotal role in my life and gives me the ability to accept changes whether they’re good or unpleasant. While I’m sheltered-at-home in this lockdown, my ashtanga practice brings me peace and relief from the fear of uncertainty. I live in Mumbai and my city is one of the worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re all in lockdown and are only allowed to step out for a few hours at fixed times to buy basic essentials like food, medicines, etc. I live with my parents and they’re both in the high-risk category so that adds to my concern every time I step out to buy food or supplies.

Now, more than ever, my ashtanga practice keeps me grounded and focused. The ashtanga system has a set of postures that we practice at the end of our daily asana routine. We call them the finishing postures. To me, these cooling-down postures are the most important sequence of ashtanga yoga. They help to relax and stabilise the nervous systems as they lower our body’s temperature after an active, vinyasa practice. What’s more, these asanas balance the endocrine system of the body.

One of these postures is matsyasana. I want to focus on this posture as in addition to cooling the body, matsyasana stimulates the thymus which leads to better functioning of our immune system. We could all do with strong immunity in these times.

Here are some more benefits of this extraordinary pose:

  • It increases the capacity of our lungs which allows a better breathing pattern and rhythm. When we breathe properly, we think properly as the mind and breath are connected.
  • It expands the chest cavity, which in turn increases lung capacity and encourages deeper breathing. This helps asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
  • It lifts the sternum and expands the rib cage increasing lung capacity. This enables deep breathing, which helps in resolving various respiratory issues.
  • The lift of the neck and balancing on the top of the head increases blood supply to the head which nourishes the pituitary and pineal glands and activates the thyroid and parathyroid glands that are part of our endocrine system.
  • The crossing of the legs in padmasana enables increased blood supply and circulation in the waist and pelvis. It also increases flexibility in the pelvic joints.

I have deconstructed how to practice matsyasana below, but if you suffer from heart disease, high or low blood pressure, hernia, cervical spine problems, migraines and have undergone abdominal surgery, please avoid this pose.

Asana to Boost Immunity

Matsyasana

Start in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you.

Start to fold into padmasana. Place your right leg in half lotus followed by the left leg over the right leg.

Inhale and on the exhalation, keep leaning back using your elbows and arms to balance. Keep moving back till you can place the crown of your head on the mat. Next, extend your arms and grasp your feet to further lift your neck and sternum, and to deepen the arc in your back. Keep your drishti (gaze) at the tip of your nose. If you have knee joint issues, you can practice a variation for this pose by keeping the legs straight (instead of padmasana) and your hands placed on the side of your body.

Digna Popat is a Mumbai-based Level 2 Authorised Ashtanga Teacher. Find her teaching schedules on @digi_pop.

May 18, 2020
Photos Simon Meier

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