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6 Instructive Tips to Help You Into Mermaid Yoga Pose

Mermaid Yoga Pose from low lunge is a great modification for King Pigeon – aka Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

This pose is a very deep shoulder, chest, groin, hip flexor, and quadriceps opener. It hits all of the muscles strained by sitting. 

Keep reading to learn how to prep your body for mermaid yoga pose from a low lunge with classes, tips, and the asana breakdown with Clara Roberts-Oss!

►Watch the Mermaid Pose Tutorial here. 

Props for your practice:

  • A soft foam block or rolled-up towel/blanket
  • A strap or long band/belt/sash 
  • A yoga block 

From the Mermaid Pose Tutorial:

Review the tutorial with Clara Roberts-Oss

I wanted to break down a variation of mermaid pose in lunge versus doing it in pigeon pose.  This variation from lunge is a great way to lead up towards king pigeon. From lunge pose, I find it can be a bit more accessible for people’s bodies because it’s not as deep of a hip opener and a lot easier on the knees.

Watch the tutorial for knee sensitivity with modifications here. 

That being said, it also can be too much on the knees. I recommend some sort of padding underneath your back knee. I’ve got this little chip block, so it’s a soft block. You can use a blanket; you can use whatever you have around. I always recommend starting with a strap, regardless of whether or not you need it.

You’re going to grab a strap. You can also always use a bathrobe, regular belt, or exercise band. Ideally, the band is thick, meaning that it will be able to support you. 

Body Parts Targeted:  shoulder, chest, groin, hip flexor, and quadriceps
Level: Intermediate
Props: 1 strap, 1 block, 1 blanket
Benefits: It stretches the shoulders, chest, groins, hip flexors, and quadriceps- all the muscles strained by sitting! It also strengthens the inner thighs and abdominals and improves the flexion of the spine. 

1. Why and How Do You Teach Mermaid from Lunge Pose?

I love this pose because it is a very deep shoulder, psoas, groin, and chest opener.

 

It’s an asymmetrical backbend and a hip opener.

It hits all the things that I find our bodies generally need from all the sitting. Backbends are so good for that. Given our lifestyle these days, they’re so therapeutic for our bodies.

I’m going to come on to hands and knees. I will step my right knee onto the padding and step my left foot forward into a lunge.

Generally, I don’t teach this pose in a one-hour class, but I wanted to break this all down for you. 

If you start to feel compression in your lower back, you’ll want to keep your torso forward and down. I’m bending quite deep into the front knee so that, ideally, I’m not on the kneecap of my back knee. I’m kind of where my knee and my thigh meet. That being said, I sometimes find when I bend the back knee, regardless of whether or not I’m on the, like, on the thigh, I can still feel a little bit too much pressure on my knee, which is why I have padding underneath there.

From here, you may want just to stay upright. Or you can take the option of cow face arms with the strap. Hold onto the strap and lift the chest.  So here’s the mermaid pose from lunge. 

This shape means I need to have a lot of opening in my groin. If you know that your groin is feeling a bit tight, you want to do a bit of groin opening before you work towards this pose, either in your home practice or in the sequence.

2. How Do You Come Out of Mermaid from Lunge Pose?

Coming out of it. I like to neutralize the spine, which means not going right back into down dog. Place the hands on either side of the front foot, curl the back toes under, lift the back knee off the ground, and then hug the inner thighs towards each other. And I just lengthen the spine forward, and I take about five breaths here, so the spine is neutral. 

Another way to come out of the mermaid pose from lunge is just to have your students or yourself come onto hands and knees.  Claw mat with finger pads, and imagine you’re dragging your palms back and your knees forward, and this just softly engages your abdominals, which will widen your back. 

Just breathe here, and then your toes curled under. Then you can sit back on the heels or tops of feet on the ground and sit back just ideally, especially because that backbends quite deep,  come to a neutral spine for at least 5 to 8 breaths just to allow the body to come back to the middle before you go to the other side.

3. How Do You Create Symmetry After Mermaid from Lunge Pose?

Personally, I like teaching this. Whenever I do an asymmetrical backbend, I like to end with a symmetrical backbend.

So, because this pose is asymmetrical, we want to tie it all together by doing one full backbend. And so what we did today in mermaid pose is essentially bow pose. So we did that bow pose but with a big strap and loop. 

You can do any backbend. You can do bridge pose, wheel pose, and bow pose. You’re fully primed for what we call Dwipada Dandasana, which is wheel pose, and then you put your forearms on the ground like you would in a headstand.

4. What to Teach in an Advanced Class?

If this were an advanced class, like where I was teaching two-and-a-half-hour practice, we would do Dvipada Dandasana, not in a one-hour class. When I do big backbends like this asymmetrically, I do a couple of symmetrical backbends to tie it all together.

As teachers, we’re always reading the room or reading ourselves.

I would just use a supported backbend if the energy level is not there for a deep, symmetrical backbend. In a supported backbend we would take a supported bridge pose or supported fish pose, so that you are resting in the backbend, but allowing the body to settle in so that the left and right sides kind of come back to balance.

5. What Muscles Need to Be Opened/Strengthened to Achieve Mermaid From Lunge Pose?

The triceps, side waist, quadriceps, and groin are involved and must be open for this pose.

What needs to be strengthened are the hamstrings and core.  And so how we did that today is we started in that chair pose where I had your hands behind you arching and rounding the spine, a funny variation of cat-cow.

It’s also a wonderful way of strengthening your back muscles because they have to engage from going down to coming up. So I’m already lighting them up to get ready to backbend. 

We also did strengthening of the chest by doing those Chaturangas to strengthen the core and just to bring awareness into the front body, because especially those of us who are very open, if you’re coming into backbends, it can really compress the lower back.

I also wanted to strengthen the front body, which is only sometimes what people think of right off the bat when doing backbends. To counter the backbends, we did cow face. We did a very deep hip opener, and I wanted us to stay more upright. Then, I countered the opening of the chest by closing the chest with the eagle arms.

6. How Do You Release After Mermaid from Lunge Pose?

Then we released, and we bowed forward. Forward folds are traditionally what people think of doing to counter backbends. I’m not super big on deep forward folds after backbends just because you’re taking the spine in the opposite direction, and depending on where it is, it can strain your back.

Mild or supported forward folds, that’s what we did. That’s why I asked you or offered the block underneath the forehead. That helps to create that rounding shape without going too deep into the lower back.  

Seraphina Dawn

Seraphina has a BA in Literature from Simone Fraser University and participated in the Creative Writing Program at UC Berkeley. She is a Kundalini teacher, writer, and poet. She admires Clarice Lispector’s prose, Octavia Butler’s fiction, and Simone Weil's philosophy. Seraphina currently lives in Istanbul. 

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