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Ardha-Matsyendrasana – The Half Spinal Twist Yoga Posture

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Ardha-Matsyendrasana – half lord of the fishes

One of the most celebrated asanas in hatha yoga is Ardhmatsyendrasana..

Ardh=Half ; Matsyendra= Lord of Fish; Asana= Pose

Half lord of the fishes pose

Its basically of twisting nature and is done while sitting. Matsyendranath was the disciple of sage Gorakshnath who is said to be the propounder of nath tradition and the father of several of classical hatha yoga techniques we know today. The story goes like once Shiva was delivering secret knowledge to parvati about yoga near a pond. There was a fish (Matsya in sanskrit) also listening to the discourse. As the discourse finished the fish evolved as sage Matsyendranath. The moral is about the evolution of human consciousness from primitive to developed forms with the practise of Yoga.

This asana is performed while in sitting Dandasana position with legs straight ahead and is repeated on each side. To reap the benefits of Ardhmatsyendrasana, perform the asanas with a deep breathing sequence and awareness focused on primary spots of engagements.

1. Bend the right leg and put the foot on the inner side of the left knee while keeping the right leg lifted up.

2. The bend the left leg and insert the heel near the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone) on the right hip.

3. Fix the position and balance the body while breathing deeply in the position. The primary focus here is on elongating the torso from its connections in the pelvis. People with tight flexors will find it difficult in the beginning and for them the best way to progress is to spend time in the positions 1 & 2 for a couple of weeks before attempting on the asana.

4. Next step is breath in full while expanding the chest and raising the left arm up over the shoulder while placing the right hand by the side of the right hip.

5. With a prolonged and controlled exhalation (preferably ujjayi) now start turning the torso towards the right side while bringing the left hand down across the right leg which is lifted from the knee and placing the arm parallel to the right knee on the outer edge of the leg trying to grab the right foot. In this process the tricep of the left arm will touch the outer edge of the right thigh and the right knee will get inserted into the left armpit. If you cannot achieve this then try progressing slowly while locking the left arm from elbow joint around the right knee as if you are holding it. This will make a grip on the knee with the inner crease of elbow.

6. As you move ahead focus on the vertebral column and try to induce a twisting in the lower section of the column which is the most challenging part ofcourse, as the vertebral column is least flexible in terms of twisting in the lumbar portion. If you take your awarness deep enough you can feel the ligaments and deeper errector spiane muscle being tensed on right side and expanding on left side. Achieving your limits in the lumbar section, move up to thoracic (chest portion) part of the vertebral column and try to twist here relatively to the lumbar portion. Do not over strain the ligaments in this section to create the twist as it will give a awkward feeling of stress and strain to the whole spine. Try to keep the progression harmonious.

7. Then breath in deeper one more time and create the twist in the neck portion, which is the most flexible portion of vertebral column, while bringing the chin in line with the right shoulder. The right hand will be shifted from side towards the back while placing it in line with the middle portion of the sacrum, fingers pointing away from the line of body. Use it to bring balance in the seat.

8. As you achieve the final position, try bringing more twist with each exhalation. Ideally the chest should be facing directly out on the right side along with the abdomen. Shoulders must come in one straight line parallel to the chest. Once the balance is attained, wrap the right arm around the waist to the left side.

9. Stay in the position with breathing naturally and letting the body understand and adapt to this position. Spend minimum of 15 seconds in the asana and then come out gradually by releasing the right arm, turning the torso to the center by releasing the left arm and straightening the legs in dandasana.

10. Repeat on the other side.

Ardha-Matsyendrasana Benefits:

  • Increase your spinal elasticity and range of motion, Makes spine supple.
  • Help to Expands chest and shoulders.
  • Relieves your thoracic or mid back spinal tension.
  • Helps to Strengthens abdominal oblique muscles.
  • Gives freedom to hip rotators and muscles responsible for movement in the central portion of the body.
  • Traditionally thought to massage your abdominal organs, detoxify your liver and kidneys, and stimulate digestive fire.
  • It is also a boon for imbalanced pancreas and is used therapeutically in diabetes.