Half Lord of the Fishes – Ardha Matsyendrasana is a seated twist suited for all levels.
It’s commonly practiced in Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Iyengar yoga.
Ardha Matsyendrasana is pronounced ARE-dah-see-en-DRAHS-anna and translates to Half Lord of the Fishes Pose.
Ardha = half and Matsyendrasana is the Hindu sage in which the pose is named after. He is said to be one of the original founders of Hatha Yoga.
It’s said that he was rejected and abandoned by his parents and thrown into a river to die. I imagine this was the root of his suffering and what made him such an influential yogi. His story can remind us to be grateful for the challenges of life as they are ultimately the grit the produces the pearl.
Half Lord of the Fishes actively stretches the chest, shoulders, neck and strengthens the entire spinal column. It stimulates digestion and elimination, counters fatigue and insomnia and brings suppleness to the spine.
Precautions include any disk, spine, neck or shoulder injuries and pregnancy.
Matsyendrasana is considered kitchen sink pose for stretching the hips, spine, shoulders and neck. It stimulates the digestive fire and is said to cause hunger. It’s highly therapeutic for fighting fatigue, relieving sciatica and insomnia.
I will share alignment principles to keep you safe in the pose as well as modifications in case you are working with any physical challenges. Naturally i’ll include variations for those students who need more physicalness to stay engaged.
Keep in mind that modifications and variations are specific to whos doing the pose in the moment they are doing it, the choice to vary up or down should be born from the moment unless you are working with an injury.
I like to always include Common Misalignments, great for teacher to keep watch for, as well as the Fix It- to bring the body back into integrity.
Begin in Dandasana- Staff Pose, with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and take your foot to the outside of your left thigh. Try and flatten your foot down to the earth.
Modifications #1- You can take the corner of a folded blanket underneath both of your sitting bones to create levelness in the pelvis and evenness in both sides of the spine.
Modifications #2- You can keep the side your twisting to’s opposite leg straight. So if you’re twisting the upper body to the right your, left leg remains straight. This is effective if you have any challenges with your knees.
Variations #1- You can add more challenge by creating a bind, releasing your left arm and take it in between your legs and clasp both of your hands behind your back. This is great for leveraging more rotation.
Variations #2- You can release your left arm straight and with your peace fingers take hold of your big toe. Draw your left shoulder blade into your back body and roll your left shoulder back against that, creating leverage and rotation.
Common Misalignment- It’s quite common to lose length in the side of the body your twisting too, this is commonly accompanied with opposite sitting bone lifting off the ground.
The Fix It- If the imbalance is dramatic stick the corner of a blanket underneath both sitting bones prior to entering the pose. To avoid compression, create length in the spine before you enter, then twist from below to above, do your best to keep your sitting bones evenly grounded.
A great way to prepare the body is with Cow Face Pose - Gomukhasana, as it foreshadows some of the key actions in Ardha Matsyendrasana. Counter posing with Heros Pose - Virasana is recommended as it brings the body back into an anatomical neutral.
Half Lord of the Fishes – Ardha Matsyendrasana is a great antidote for those of us who sit throughout the day, which lets be honest, it’s most of us. This repeated action (or non action) of sitting shortens the hip flexors which attach to the deep internal layers of the lower spine. As they lock short and tight it pulls on the lumbar spine and ultimately makes us age prematurally.
Ardha Matsyendrasana is an all levels Seated Twist and antidotal to sitting, there are many adaptations that make it approachable for all levels and all bodies.
It actively that stretches the chest, shoulders and neck and strengthens the spinal column. It stimulates digestive fire (agni) and provolks elimination, counters fatigue, insomnia and brings alertness to the entire mind- body.
Practice this pose after a long day of sitting and let us know your experience. Did it relieve stress? Did it enliven you? Do you feel relieved?