Asana of the Week: Mermaid Pose

This variation of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is a potent posture that is rich with challenges, and should not be attempted by the novice practitioner or anyone who cannot sit properly in the preparatory variations pictured below for at least 2 minutes without discomfort.

Like most variations of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, Mermaid Pose demands a wide range of external rotation in the front leg in order to maintain the integrity of the knee joint.  Length in the hip flexors of the back leg are needed to avoid compression of the sacrum or lumbar spine, and independent mobility of the scapula is required to prevent twisting while the shoulders rotate in opposite directions.  All of this may be achieved through regular, committed yoga practice.

Position A
Practice this posture only when you are fully warm.  Prepare the body with lunges, backbends and shoulder openers.  When you feel ready, step into position A (pictured above), with your right heel in line with your left hip bone.  Flex the ankle and toes as you externally rotate the right leg and place the right hip on the floor.  Inwardly rotate the left leg behind you and square the chest and pelvis to the front edge of the mat. Breathe in this position until you are able to maintain the posture without using your arms to steer the body or support your weight.

Position B
When you're ready to take the next step, bend your left knee and grasp the arch of the foot with your left hand.  Draw the foot toward your outer hip while you swivel the hand until the fingers point over the toes, as in position B (pictured above).  Keep the body facing forward.  If the right hip lifts from the floor, consciously turn the right thigh out and relax your glutes.  Use the right hand minimally for support.  If you are able to breathe in position B without turning the torso to the long edge of the mat, you may be ready for Mermaid Pose.

From position B, simply slide the foot up the inner forearm to the crook of the elbow and reach the left hand toward the head.  Then take the right arm behind the head and clasp the hands.  (Watch the video below for the transition.)  Your pelvis may have shifted during the course of this movement, so recheck your posture once you have your bind.  Steer the hipbones straight ahead, lift the chest, and press the head against the arms.  Feel the energizing tension created along the central axis of the body.

For the context of this posting and information on how NOT to do this posture, click here.  And don't forget to leave your questions and comments below!