Strengthen Your Spine & Your Core With Mermaid Pose

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

9 advanced yoga poses to liven up your routine

Image by mbg Creative x Pilin Anice / Contributor

If you're seeking an advanced yoga pose that strengthens not only your spine but also your core and glutes, look no further than mermaid pose. This challenging backbend is a variation of pigeon pose, with an even deeper backbend and extra focus on the glutes and hamstrings. Here's how to do it, plus why it's so good for you, as demonstrated by certified yoga instructor Pilin Anice.

How to do mermaid pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana).

This Spine-Strengthening Yoga Pose Also Activates Your Core & Glutes

Image by Pilin Anice / Contributor

  1. Beginning in tabletop, slide your right leg forward with a flexed foot, dropping your knee by your right wrist.
  2. Extend your left leg back in a straight line from your hip, and allow your right shin to rest on the ground, with your right foot in front of your left hip.
  3. Lean forward to stretch the right hip for a few breaths before pushing yourself up, so your torso is upright with a proud chest. Engage your core.
  4. Bring your left hip slightly forward to come in line with the right so your hips are squared. Send your tailbone down, and tilt your hips slightly forward. This opens up space in your low back before the backbend.
  5. Bring your hands to your hips and push slightly down, allowing the motion to help you stretch up and back with your chest. Feel each vertebra and rib bend back. Drop your head back and shine your chest toward the ceiling.
  6. Keeping the positioning of your hips, allow your right hand to rest on your right thigh. Bend your left knee and reach your left hand back, grabbing the inside of the left foot. Place your left foot in the crease of your left elbow, and press into the arm. Engage the point where your left glute meets the hamstring.
  7. With a long, strong spine, reach your right arm up and overhead, and hold your hands together behind your head.
  8. Keep your body square to the front of the mat and maintain the motion of sending your chest up and back, and the engagement of your glutes.
  9. Gaze up softly and hold for five breaths. Exit by releasing your arms and your left leg back behind you, and flow through chaturanga, upward dog, and downward dog. Repeat on the opposite side.
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Some tips to remember:

  • Be sure to warm up for this pose with other hip openers and light backbends.
  • Place a block under the glute of whichever leg is bent parallel to the front of the mat, to allow hips to remain square.
  • If you can't get your foot to your elbow, you can hold the pose at step No. 5, focusing on working that flexibility.
  • Other backbends and hip openers such as wheel pose, butterfly, pigeon, lizard, and cobra will help build a solid foundation for this pose.

What are the benefits of mermaid pose?

Maintaining a healthy spine throughout our lives is so important to our overall well-being, influencing everything from posture to pain, sleep quality, balance, and so much more. Incorporating more advanced backbends into your favorite yoga flows will ensure your spine stays strong and flexible.

Not only that, but mermaid also requires a fair amount of core and glute strength. Plus, it serves as an excellent hip-opener. There's a reason it's a challenging pose—it'll certainly help build flexibility.

And not for nothing, backbends also double as heart-openers, making this a great pose to open up the heart center, or the heart chakra, expand your chest, invite fresh oxygen into your lungs, and help you come out of your practice with tenderheartedness.

If you're not quite there yet, don't worry. Practice makes progress, and variations of this pose are always available. As long as you're moving that spine and opening up those hips, you can't go wrong.

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