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How to Do Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

If ‘Ardha Matsendrasana’ and ‘Half Lord of the Fishes Pose’ don’t roll easily off your tongue, this pose is also called a Seated Spinal Twist, which describes it rather well. Twists are some of yoga’s most beneficial postures because we don’t rotate our spines very frequently in our daily lives. Keeping the vertebrae mobile also promotes long term agility and spinal health. Standing twists incorporate balance, which is great for your core, but sometimes limits your rotation. In a seated twist, you’re in no danger of toppling over so you can really deepen the pose.

 

Benefits of Ardha Matsyendrasana

Stretches the spinal support, abdominal, and intercostal muscles.

Stretches the upper back and neck.

Instructions:

  1. Come to sit in Easy Pose (Sukhasana). If you like a blanket under your butt in Easy Pose, you may want to keep it there in Ardha Masyendrasana. Try the pose both ways to see which feels most supportive.
  1. Move the sole of your left foot to the outside of your right thigh as you shift your right thigh toward your midline. 
  1. Your left knee points toward the ceiling while the sole of the left foot is flat on your mat. Your right heel is tucked up close to your left buttock.
  1. Place your left hand on your mat behind you, roughly in line with your spine. You can come up on your fingertips or keep the palm flat, whichever allows you to sit up very straight.
  1. Inhale to elongate your spine.

  1. On your exhalation, twist to your left, bringing your right elbow to the outside of your left knee. If that’s not possible, then hug your left knee with your right arm.
  1. If you have traction between your right arm and left knee, press them together to deepen your rotation on your exhalation. Keep your right hand activated with bright fingers.
  1. Rotation originates from the base of the spine, not from your neck. As you open your twist, look over your left shoulder but avoid cranking your head around.
  1. In your eagerness to deepen the pose, don’t forget to stay anchored. Press the whole sole of your left foot firmly into the mat and keep both buttocks rooting into the floor throughout the pose.
  1. After 5-10 breaths, release your twist and come back to centre. You can take a gentle counter twist in the opposite direction if you like before repeating the posture on the other side.

 

The Bind

Don’t be too eager to take the arm bind in this pose, as it often throws the rest of your body into imbalance. If you have the space to maintain good alignment, you can bind by threading your right arm under your left knee and reaching your left arm behind you back. Clasp your hands together and continue to keep your spine long, your butt grounded, and your left foot flat.

 

Modification for Pregnancy

Deep, cross-body twisting may be uncomfortable during pregnancy. If you want a modification, twist away from your top leg instead of toward it. (The counter twist described above.) This gives your belly more room and avoids compression.

 

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