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 intense, and should be approached with caution, particularly if you are new to the practice and/or if you have difficulty with Pigeon Pose.
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 improve balance.
- 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.
- Inhale to find length along your spine, and as you exhale, square your hips and shoulders forward toward the front of your mat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 toward your body.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Before coming into Mermaid Pose, be sure to incorporate preparatory poses that open the hips, shoulders, and back, such as lunges, backbends, and of course, Pigeon Pose.
- If you feel your right hip lifting away from the ground in this pose, place a block or folded blanket underneath your right hip for stability and to protect your joints.
- If you can’t quite get a hold of your back foot just yet, loop a strap around the top of your back foot and hold on to the ends of the strap, gently drawing your foot in towards your body. King Arthur’s Pose is a great way to open up the front of the quadriceps, as is Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana).
- If the hands don’t quite clasp in the bind, you can hold on to the ends of a strap and slowly walk your hands closer together to help invite a deeper stretch into the shoulders.