I spent my childhood wanting to be a mermaid. I’d spend hours wishing my name was Ariel and practicing my magical singing voice. Years later, when I discovered the yoga practice—my eyes lit up when I found out that there was something called the Mermaid pose.
Of course, I was naturally drawn to the pose and spent months creating the opening in my body needed to take this pose. Now, as a yoga teacher, I have learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I am happy to share on our quest to mermaid-hood.
Mermaid pose is a variation of Pigeon pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotonasana. It’s a combo move—a hip opening seated pose combined with a backbend. It requires your hips to be flexible enough to take the basic shape of Pigeon pose and mobility through your upper or thoracic spine.
Not only is it awesome to be a mermaid for a few minutes, but it’s great for stretching the hip flexors and quadriceps. It also helps to strengthen the core and challenge your balance as well as your breath.
Because Mermaid pose is an advanced pose, perform with caution and consult with your yoga teacher before you attempt.
Step by Step:
1.Begin in Downward-Facing Dog. Sweep your right leg across the top of your mat for Pigeon pose with your right leg forward. Find your balance, slowly walk your hands back toward your legs as you lift your chest up. Bring your hands to your hips to stabilize your core to ensure that your hips and shoulders are squared toward the front of the mat.
2. Curl your left toes under to engage your left leg. Start to bend your left knee back behind you and bring your left heel toward your seat. Lift your chest and reach back with your left hand and take hold of your foot. Pause for a few breaths to open up the muscles in the front of your left leg.
3.Bend your left elbow and slide your left foot down your arm until it reaches the inside of your left elbow crease. Keep this position locked as you reach your left fingertips upward.
4. Reach your right arm straight ahead with your palm facing in toward the midline. Bend your right arm and point your right elbow up toward the sky. Connect the dots and grab hold of your left hand with your right hand.
5.Root your tailbone down toward the ground and lengthen your sternum up toward the sky. Work on squaring your shoulders and hips forward, drawing your right hip forward and your left hip gently back.
6. Balance and breathe, take five deep breaths continuing to lift out of your hips and open your chest then release and move back into Downward-Facing Dog. After resting in Downward-Facing Dog, repeat on the left side.
If the full variation is not working for you and your practice, here are some modifications to make being a mermaid a little easier.
Low Lunge pose – Helps to stretch the hip flexors, hamstrings, and groin. Also helps to open both the chest and abdomen.
Warrior I pose – Strengthens the arms, legs, shoulders, and back. Also stretches the hamstrings, calves, ankles, and shoulders.
Bridge pose –Improves posture and opens rounded shoulders. Also helps to stretch the abdominal organs and improves digestion.
If your back or quad flexibility is preventing you from reaching your foot, use a belt or strap to create a loop around your back ankle. Use the long end of the strap to make it easier to reach your back foot.
If your external hip flexibility is preventing you from taking Mermaid pose easily, or you find yourself falling over in the pose, try wedging a block or small bolster underneath your front hip to stabilize the foundation of the pose and give you more firm footing.
If you have mastered the basic Pigeon pose and would like to deepen your expression, you can also play with the mermaid version of some other favorite poses!
Mermaid pose in split requires tons of length in the hamstrings—Start in Monkey pose and bend your back leg, reaching your foot into you elbow as you did in the Pigeon pose variation.
Standing Mermaid pose is somewhat similar to Dancer pose or Lord of the Dance pose, while standing in Mountain pose, bend one knee and snuggle your foot into your elbow crease.
Mermaid pose in Low Lunge pose is a favorite, and sometimes easier than the Pigeon pose variation, because you have height on your side. Start in Low Lunge pose and follow all the same steps for the Pigeon pose version.
Mermaid pose in Camel pose is a challenging backbend and front body opener—you might want to pad your knees for this variation. From Camel pose, reach one arm back behind you and lift a foot into you elbow crease. Stay with your breath because this is a delicate balance!
A creative leader in the Miami yoga community, Amy Dannheim is passionate about yoga, plant-based recipes and healthy living. With her degree in journalism from the University of Florida, Amy is a yoga writer and blogger as well as the co-host for Radio 1Om8, a weekly live yoga radio show. After years of working with lululemon, Amy established herself as the go-to person for yoga consulting in Miami, with her finger on the pulse of the yoga community. When she’s not strategizing or cooking, Amy teaches dynamic vinyasa yoga classes that are layered with hip-hop and spirituality, drawing inspiration from her frequent travels. Amy sits on the Green Monkey Yoga teacher training faculty and leads regular workshops and innovative events throughout South Florida. Amy is also a VitaCoco and Funky Yoga ambassador and has appeared on the pages of Wall Street Journal, on lululemon.com and shape.com. She lives in Miami Beach with her husband and fellow yogi, Mike, where they run their bike centric community & clothing company Purdy Ave. Follow her blog at www.miamyyoga.com or find her adventures on Instagram @miamy.