Ardha Matsyendrasana, also known as Half Lord of the Fishes Pose or Half Spinal Twist Pose, is a twisting pose performed by rotating the spine, energizes the body, and calms the mind and nervous system.
It is also therapeutic for asthma and infertility. The pose invites an energy into your spine that helps encourage proper digestion while improving posture and body awareness.
Meaning + Mythology
The Ardha Matsyendrasana is derived from the Sanskrit name, which is made up of four words — Ardha + Matsya + Indra + Asana:
- “Ardha” = “half”
- “Matsya” = “fish”
- “Indra” = “ruler or king or lord”
- “Asana” = “pose or posture”
The Ardha Matsyendrasana is named after Yogi Matsyendranath. In some texts, the pose is known as Vakrasana. In Sanskrit, “Vakra” means “twist” and “asana” means “pose or posture”. Since it twists your body while doing this yoga pose, it is also called as such. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) is a seated spinal twist and has a lot of variations. This pose is one of the 12 basic asanas used in Hatha yoga programs.
Ardha Matsyendrasana is about Lord Shiva narrating the yoga secrets to Parvati (his wife). He took Parvati to a deserted island to describe yoga, a fish on the shore listened to the conversation with concentration and remained motionless the whole time.
As soon as Shiva realized that the fish had learned yoga, he sprinkled some water on it. This enlightened the fish, and it came into its divine form of Matsyendra (the king of the fishes). Matsyendra later returned to earth to spread yoga and lead others on his spiritual path.
Some yogi also have a belief that while holding this yoga pose, the lower half of the body resembles a fish and the other half resembles a human. This yogi represents the divine hybrid form of Matsyendranath.
|Knwon as:||Ardha Matsyendrasana, Half Spinal Twist Pose, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, Bound Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, Baddha Ardha Matsyendrasana, Spinal Twist Pose, Seated Twist Pose, Lateral Spinal Twist Posture, Vakrasana|
|Sanskrit name:||अर्ध मत्स्येन्द्रासन|
|Total time:||30 to 60 seconds|
|Chakra:||Manipura Chakra, Swadisthana Chakra, Muladhara Chakra|
|Indications:||Neck pain, lower backache, sciatica, second trimester pregnancy|
|Preparatory poses:||Cobbler’s Pose, Head-on-Knee Forward Bend Pose, Hero Pose, Bharadvaja’s Twist Pose, Reclined Hand to Big Toe Pose, Marichi Sage Twist Pose|
|Follow-up poses:||Seated Forward Bend Pose, Head of the knee pose (Janusirsasana)|
|Contraindications:||Low or high blood pressure, headache, diarrhea, insomnia, digestive discomfort, menstruation, back or spine injury (only with the supervision of an experienced)|
Benefits of Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
Ardha Matsyendrasana benefits are not limited to spine flexibility, but to uplift the physical and mental, as follows:
- Physical Benefits:
- Tones the abdominal muscles
- Stretches arms, shoulders, and spine
- Relieves back pain and is effective in curing sciatica1
- Stimulates the digestive, circulatory, and lymphatic systems
- Strengthens leg muscles and shoulders
- Relives the problems of Annavaha Srotas with the aids of anatomical structures2
- Improves reproductive health
- Increases appetite, awakens kundalini (the cosmic energy), and destroys most deadly diseases
- Enhances breathing capacity
- Mental Benefits:
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces stress
- Relieves mild depression
Step-by-step Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
- Begin by flexing your hip and knee and placing your foot on the outside of the opposite thigh. Wrap the opposite arm around the front of your knee, holding it with your hand. Place your other hand on the floor behind your pelvis.
- Bend the elbow of your front hand and straighten the elbow of the hand on the floor. Activate the muscles in both your arms simultaneously to twist your upper body.
- As you gain flexibility, place the outside of the hand on the outside of the flexed knee. Hold your lower leg with the hand behind the body. Press the elbow into the outer knee while pulling with the other hand. Feel how these actions combine to twist your torso. In the classical pose, the hand is around your knee in front of you.
- Dorsiflex your foot (lift the sole of the foot off the ground while leaving the heel on the floor) and hold it firmly with your hand. Then activate your calf muscles to flex the foot. This presses your foot into the floor, draws the arm with you, and moves your body forward into a twist.
Step-by-step Anatomy Engaging Techniques
- Bend both your knees.
- Your lower knee is flexing more than your upper, so your hamstring on this side will contract with more force.
- Note that the tibia of your upper leg rotates outward. You can extend this by pressing the ball of your foot into the floor and gently turning it toward the outer edge of the mat. It engages your biceps femoris muscle on the outside of your thigh and rotates your tibia. Do this carefully.
- The force of external rotation is converted into internal rotation of your hip. It is accentuated by pressing the side of your knee into the elbow, connecting your gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata.
- In Ardha Matsyendrasana, one of your knees flexes more than your other. Similarly, both of your hips are flexed, one more than your other. This creates an opportunity to create a bandha in your pelvis.
- Contract the psoas and pectineus of your upper leg to flex your hip into the trunk and squeeze your trunk into the thigh.
- Your adductor longus and brevis coordinate this action and draw your femur across the midline. The psoas on the other leg engages to externally rotate your femur and tilt your pelvis forward.
- Press the side of your thigh into the mat to engage your tensor fascia lata and gluteus medius muscles.
- To activate your gluteus maximus and deep external rotators, press the tailbone down and under, rolling your thigh outward.
- Roll your shoulder forward to internally rotate your arm behind the back.
- Lift your hand off the back to engage your muscles that produce this action. This causes the lower back of your pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, teres major, front part of the deltoid and subscapularis muscles to contract.
- Try to straighten your elbows by engaging your triceps.
- Notice that as your elbows extends, your body becomes deeper into the pose. Accelerate this action by engaging your pronators teres and quadratus to pronate your forearm.
- Activate your pronators teres and quadratus to turn your palm down, while locking your hand on the foot.
- Then try to bend your elbows by contracting your biceps and brachialis muscles. This draws your shoulder and torso deeper into the twist. It also helps protect your elbows from hyperextension, which is a tendency in this pose.
- Plantar flex your foot (press into the floor) by contracting your gastrocnemius or soleus complex, flexor digitorum, flexors hallucis longus and brevis, and the internal flexors of your foot.
- This will draw your arm further forward and push your body deeper into the twist.
- For individual with stomach ulcers or peptic ulcers, hernias or hyperthyroidism, Ardha Matsyendrasana can be practiced carefully under the guidance of a teacher.
- This yoga asana should be avoided during pregnancy and menstruation, as there is a strong bend in the abdomen in this pose.
- Individuals who have recently undergone surgery of stomach, heart or brain should avoid the practice of this yoga asana.
- Individuals who have spinal problems or have serious problems with slip discs will benefit from this asana. But they should practice Ardha Matsyendrasana under supervision and with the approval of the doctor.
- Any injury to the knee, hip, shoulder, neck or back can be caused by the practice of Ardha Matsyendrasana.
Written by Anjali Kumari. She is a certified yoga instructor, Diploma in Make up, Nails and Beauty, Diploma in Nutrition, Food, Science and Menu Planning. Anjali is the destination of choice for the latest updates, tips and resources in beauty, health and wellness, and all topics that mean the most to today’s woman. Whether it’s advice from a trusted expert or a DIY tutorial, she has it all. She is passionate and obsessive about science and how it can be applied in daily lifestyle. According to her, food is the best medicine and proper nutrition is the key to achieving good health and beauty. When she is not working, she likes to spend quality time with family and friends. She loves creating innovative, healthy recipes and healthy choices for foods to promote good health.
- February 2019 World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research volume 8(issue 2):1414-1421 DOI:10.20959/wjpr20192-14229: EFFICACY OF YOGA ASANA IN THE MANAGEMENT OF GRUDHRASI (SCIATICA)
- July 2016; Authors: Nitin S Madavi, Priti Desai: ROLE OF ARDHA-MATSYENDRASANA ON DISEASES OF ANNAVAHA SROTAS IN PERSPECTIVE OF SHARIR