Free as on the high seas: the mermaid pose mobilizes the hips and extends the back to a magnificent arch. One can imagine the base of the posture as the spread tail-fin of a mermaid (or a merman): It is broad and powerful and gives the attitude a feeling of flowing.
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This gives the upper body enough lift to unfold freely through the spine and make the heart area wide and open. In the course of the practice, you will awaken the power and suppleness of a mermaid and learn to merge strength, stability, lightness and grace in a single pose. With this goal in mind, you can leave the safe shores of the familiar behind and playfully open up to new yoga adventures.
Begin the practice with a few minutes of meditation : Focus the attention inward and listen to your breath. Only the presence of this breath can arouse gratitude. Then put your hands together in front of your chest and, if you wish, formulate an intention, for example, “May I develop a deeper experience of my power and thus gain a feeling of flowing, graceful freedom.”
In Balasana(Position of the child) then deepen your breath with Ujjayi Pranayama (sea-breathing or victorious breathing). As you open your breath in from the inside, relax your eyes, jaw joints and face. Fall into a more fluid state of consciousness by connecting body awareness and breathing. This feeling for the wave-like movement of the breath you now also keep when changing between cat and cowwhere the quadriplegic spine curves alternately up and down in the breathing rhythm. After a while, you change the breathing pattern, meaning that you are now breathing in the movement that you had previously exhaled, and vice versa. Create a supple feeling in the spine and focus on the synchronicity between breath and movement. Also, observe if there are areas of the body that feel tight or blocked.
Even with the following warm-up with three rounds of sun salutation(Surya Namaskar A and B) stick to the connection of breath and movement. As muscles and joints heat up, you begin to build strength in your arms and legs. At the same time, encourage your mind to let go of unnecessary thoughts and gently sink into the experience.
1. Adho Mukha Shvanasana
Adho Mukha Shvanasana is great for straightening the entire body while bringing suppleness and length into the spine. The muscles in the legs, pelvis and lower back are stretched by the forward bend, while the upper back, shoulders and arms work powerfully and at the same time expand. This prepares the arm posture in the mermaid, where one arm is lifted close to the head and crossed behind the body with the other. Stay in the dog for as long as possible for a few minutes, not only building up strength, it also calms the mind and nerves – a typical feature of reversal postures, where, as here, the head lies below the heart and pelvis.
They start in the quadruped stand, the wrists are parallel to the front edge of the mat and shoulder-width aligned, the knees position slightly behind the hip joints. Then you breathe in, widen the body from the inside and fill the chest with air behind and at the sides. At the same time you pull the trunk from the hips to the shoulders in length and stretch the arms powerful. Exhaling release the upper back between the shoulders and allow the heart to melt towards the floor. It creates a growing sense of integration in the shoulders, shoulder blades and spine.
With the next breath, you get into the dog: you lift your knees and push the sit bones up and back. With the arms, you push yourself off the ground, your legs stretch as best you can. Then pull your arms and legs towards each other in an isometric motion. With it you draw power from hands and feet up into the heart area. Maintain this power as you actively extend from the heart down to your hands, up into the sit bones and back down your legs.
The better you manage to sustain the strength and strength of your arms and legs, the more you can open yourself up in that posture for a sense of flow. This feeling manifests itself above all in the supple length of the spine. To do this, keep your hips, spine and arms in a continuous line, with your elbows pointing inwards. Over time you will deepen your strength and stability in your arms and legs. The suppleness of the spinal extension also increases, the neck becomes long and soft, the head sinks relaxed towards the ground. Be patient. It takes a lot of practice and the instruction of a teacher to develop the posture in its classical form so that the shoulders, arms, upper back and legs are really well aligned.
If it pinches your shoulders, elbows, or neck, lift your chest and arms a little as if you wanted to go into the board pose, bend your knees slightly, and melt the heart between your shoulder blades again. This corrective movement helps you to stabilize and align your arms and shoulders so that you can push the region of the heart backwards towards your legs with renewed force. Bring the power of integration in balance with the feeling of flow that arises from the spinal extension.
Breathe deeply and evenly in the posture for 2 to 3 minutes, then release and relax for a while in the child’s posture
2. Virabhadrasana I – Warrior I
Because strong legs are an important requirement for a deeper opening in the hips and spine, Virabhadrasana I is an ideal preparation for the mermaid. The powerful step position creates a wide arch together with the lifted chest and arms. Thus, the posture expresses your ability to connect deep within with the source of your strength, and from that power to unfold easily and freely through the spine.
To take Virabhadrasana I, in the dog looking down, ride on the wave of an inhalation and lift the left leg backwards. Exhaling, swing your leg forward between your hands. Place the rear foot diagonally at a 45-degree angle. Front and rear heels form a line. The back leg remains powerfully stretched, the front bend at a right angle. With an inhalation lift the trunk and actively stretch the spine out of the middle of the pelvis. The arms are also stretched along the ears, the head is tilted slightly backwards, the eyes turn towards the ceiling.
Now point the pelvic bones forward as straight as possible, using the power of your legs and pulling energy from your feet into the middle of the pelvis. The outer edge of the rear foot remains anchored to the ground, the front thigh is horizontal and the lower leg vertical. Through the powerful work of the legs you create a stable base for the posture: Turn the right hip slightly inwards, move the inside of the thigh to the back and extend the thigh and hip to the side. At the same time, pull the left thigh a little back into the hip, the waist slightly back and the tailbone down and forward. With the power of the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles you lift the lower abdomen. Out of this strong, stable shape, stretch your legs and feel how its suppleness continues through the spine upwards, creating a sense of serenity and freedom there. Breathe deeply and evenly. After five to ten breaths you break up the posture and change sides over the dog.
3. Anjaneyasana – Deep Lunge, Variation
This variation of Anjaneyasana is based on Virabhadrasana I. It also strengthens the legs and pelvis and promotes a flowing sensation in the elongated spine. Starting from the dog looking down, you ride again on the wave of an inhalation to lift the left leg back and swing it between the hands with the exhalation forward. Then bend the back right leg and lower the knee on the floor, keeping your toes up. If this is uncomfortable for the knee, put a folded blanket or mat under it to cushion.
Extend the trunk and both arms upwards and align the pelvic bones and chest straight forward. As in the warrior, pull the tailbone down and forward and activate the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles. As soon as you also suck the lower belly inwards and upwards, you can feel how this tone in the abdomen and pelvis stabilizes the lower back.
Now lower your right arm and reach behind the body for the right ankle. The pressure from the right arm downwards helps you to stretch the spine even more powerfully upwards. If the heel handle is not possible or feels uncomfortable on the lower back, place your hand on the calf or on a block placed behind your right hip instead.
The backbend intensified by this movement may have caused the torso to shift. Align your pelvic bones and shoulders straight forward, pulling energy from your feet up into your hips. This power in the legs will also help you if you now extend down through the legs from the middle of the pelvis. The spine stretches upwards at the same time and both shoulders are pulled backwards.
Push the shoulder blades down the back a little further, lift your chest and stretch up through the raised left arm. If it is easily possible, lift your head as well and direct your eyes backwards along the left hand. Once you have found the right shape and intensity of posture for you, try holding it for five to ten breaths. Then, slowly and carefully, get out of the way and change sides over the dog.
With a little practice you can also change the posture in the attitude. The hands then alternately touch the floor behind and next to the hips, first breathing in and out a few times on each side. Later, you move your arms fluidly in the rhythm of breathing, as if you were swimming backwards.
4. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana – one-legged dove, variation
This variation of the classic posture builds on the previous exercises and helps you to well prepare the position of the legs and pelvis in the mermaid. As with the previous asanas, lift the left leg out of the down-looking dog with one inhalation and swing it out in exhalation. This time, lower the knee outside next to the left hand and pull the lower leg diagonally forward. First stretch your right leg to the back. Again, align your shoulders and pelvic bones as straight forward as possible. Activate both legs and pull them in an isometric motion toward the centerline of the mat. From your feet and knees, suck energy into the middle of your pelvis until the seat lifts. With this power you create a stability that enables you to to open up for full deployment through the spine. The active work of the legs is a key element to keep the spine long and to avoid pressure in the lower back.
Maintain extension of the spine as you extend down from the center of the pelvis. The legs continue to support the lifting of the trunk and you now put your left hand on the front left thigh. Then bend your right leg and reach with your right hand for the inner edge of the foot, with the thumb pointing upwards. Turn the right leg slightly inwards so that the front of the thigh is pointing straight to the floor. Then move the thigh backwards, stretch the right sit bone to the right heel and at the same time pull the foot toward the right hip. If you are flexible enough, you can now put your right hand on top of the foot from above. The fingers then point down and the palm presses against the top of the foot.
In this initial position again align the pelvis and trunk as straight as possible to the front. Move the waist slightly backwards and pull the tailbone down and forward again. Activate the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles and stretch long upward through the spine. This stretching and lifting of the fuselage will help you to actively expand your legs and pelvis even closer to the ground.
Stay in posture for five to ten pulsating breaths, watching the work of the legs and their effect on the spine. With each inhalation you renew the power in the legs and the lifting of the spine. With each exhalation, ground the pelvis and push it out through the legs. Then carefully remove the right foot from the hand and return to the down-looking dog. From there, switch to the other side.
This posture stretches the upper thighs and hip flexors, mobilizing the lower back and further preparing you for the mermaid posture. Your body is getting better and better as the practice progresses, it opens up both physically and energetically, improving the fluidity and ease of your movements.
Now you are ready to use the power and suppleness that you have built in the previous exercises in the mermaid pose. To do this, first set up the variation of the one-legged pigeon with the left leg at the front. Again bend your right knee, hold the foot with your right hand and place your left hand on your left thigh. Then slide your right foot along the inside of your right forearm until you can fix it in the crook of your arm. Press the back of the foot against the upper arm and at the same time hold it with your arm closer to the hull, thus creating a good counter tension.
Also in this posture, the power of the legs enables the spine to lift. To do this, pull energy from your feet through your knees into the middle of the pelvis. Then lift your left arm, pull your shoulder back and let the scapula slide down your back. Then bend your arm, pull your forearm behind your head and push it backwards with your head so that you can fold your hands. If this is too intense for you, either tie a strap around your right foot and hold it with your left hand, or rest your left hand on your thigh.
After taking the posture, straighten your pelvis and torso as straight forward as possible, pulling your feet up through your knees and into your pelvis. Hold this power to the base as you stretch the spine up and slide your legs actively down and away from each other. After five to ten breaths, carefully pull yourself out of the posture, return to the down-looking dog and switch sides.
To gradually move from the demanding activity of the practice into the delicious tranquility of the final relaxation, stretch the entire body first again in the down-looking dog in the length. Then center and relax in Uttanasana (Forward Bend Standing) and Balasana (Child Standing) , Ardha Matsyendrasana(Swivel Seat, Half King of Pisces) and Pashchimottanasana (Forward Bend Sitting). Finally, you rest in Shavasana ( death ).
Over time, you will develop strength and suppleness with this graceful, powerful posture. Your practice may gain in depth and you may be pleased to see that body, mind and heart are in harmony. May this experience help you master the challenges of life with more grace and awareness.