Once upon a time in Salvador, North-East Brazil, I splashed about in the water with a cute little Brazilian girl of about 3 or 4. She was staring at my long red hair in the water & timidly asked her parents if I was a mermaid. Spending the first weeks of my trip learning to surf I spent so much time in the water after falling off, that i thought maybe my legs would turn into a tail and I really would become a mermaid.
Relying on some commitment to opening up the hip flexors, Psoas muscle and quadriceps, you’ll also need to access the upper back and shoulders to come into the postures. Without as strong a back bend, Mermaid pose can ease you into Raja Kapotasana, Pigeon pose. As a more accessible segue into the more challenging posture, it can give you the ‘wahoo!’ moment that massages your sometimes ‘yoga’ beaten ego and gets you back to the mat with vigour.
Life so often presents us with opportunities to feel like a fish out of water. Sometimes we throw the hot potato straight back into the burning coal, blaming the situation or the other for our uncomfortableness, refusing to accept that in actual fact, WE alone may be the cause of our discomfort.
Each situation offers us the chance to go deeper into ourselves and constantly evaluate our concepts and beliefs. What is it that makes us feel uncomfortable? Is it a self-limiting belief, a thought pattern habit we slip into which has nothing to do with the situation? The monsters under our bed lose power when you face them. Identify it and face it.
I purposefully put myself in situations that are out of my comfort zone to see what comes up and understand more about the structure of concepts in my mind so I can see them for what they are and work with them not against them.
Cutting a lovely shape, with Mermaid pose we have to outwardly rotate the front leg, flex the back knee, balance on this whilst hooking the bag foot with our arms over and behind our head. I’d say that makes for a slightly uncomfortable feeling at first! Although like everything with yoga, the body just needs time to adjust to this new use of its muscles and understand its new place in space and time.
Building up to this posture through warming up the hips and quadriceps with sun salutations, standing postures with lunges like the warriors; bring some energy into the quadriceps and open the chest with Utkatasana, chair pose; also working some energy into the quadriceps and stretching the back of the shoulders with Garudasana, eagle pose. Once the body is warmer you can start to work with the back in crescent moon, stretch the side in reverse warrior and come down to the mat for forward bends – janu sirsanasana, parsva upavistha konasana and paschmotanasana, followed by bhujangasana, cobra pose and dhanurasana, bow pose.
Coming into Mermaid pose:
You may find it easier to start in a gentle cross legged posture and take the left leg behind you, or come from kneeling/down dog and bring the right knee in front. The ideal expression is to make a right angle with your right shin, but this depends on hip flexibility/rotation and the knees take the brunt of any lack of rotation so don’t force it! Beginners may be more comfortable with the right heel closer to the groin. The back leg should be lovely and straight with the toes pointint directly behind you. Try to feel like you’re turning the left thigh in a little towards the centre line.
Gently lay the body down and breathe into the beautiful stretch across the glutes and into the hip.
Come up pulling up the lower abdomen. Take a moment to balance on the hips and keep lifting from the lower abdomen to open the chest into a gently back bend. Take a few comfortable breaths and release. Fold up the back leg, letting the quads and hip flexors stretch for a few breaths, before bringing it all together and hooking the folded up back foot with your left elbow, and coming into a gentle back bend as you bind with your right hand and keep opening up the chest.
Now you’re balanced and bound, it’s onto the details! Try to draw the tailbone to the ground and square the hips & shoulders forwards, as I need to do here!