Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

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How to do it

Begin in a seated position with your left leg folded sideways and knee pointing forward. Bend your right knee and bring your right foot over your left leg. Place your left hand on your right knee.

Inhale: Sweep your right arm up and lengthen up through the top of your head.

Exhale: Turn to your right, place your right hand on the floor behind you and look back.

Repeat this movement several times and then stay in the pose.

Breathing in Ardha Matsyendrasana

Inhale: Lengthen up through the top of your head, unwinding slightly out of the twist.

Exhale: Use abdominal contraction to turn your upper body further to your right and deepen the twist.

NOTES: Hug your right knee toward your chest as you twist. You can look back to stretch the left side of the neck, while increasing circulation to the right side of the neck. Or you can turn your head to your left to stretch the right side of the neck, while increasing circulation to the left side of the neck. Make sure that you do not lose the position of the upper body if you turn your head to your left.

Pose adaptations

One leg straight

Ardha Matsyendrasana: One leg straight makes the pose easier for the hips and encourages you to keep your upper body upright to create better axis for spinal rotation. It is the most often used version of this pose.

Elbow bent

Ardha Matsyendrasana: Elbow bent uses one arm for leverage, which engages the muscles of the upper back more strongly. Leverage allows you to twist deeper and create more stretch in your chest, shoulder and neck.

On block

Ardha Matsyendrasana: On block elevates your pelvis to make it easier on your hips. That way, you can keep your bottom folded leg and the foot of the top leg below your pelvis, which means that your hips don’t have to fold as much. This allows you to keep your pelvis in a more neutral position (instead of tipping it backward), which enables you to keep your spine longer and create a better axis for rotation.

In chair

Ardha Matsyendrasana: In chair makes the pose much more accessible and works for any student who cannot transition down to the ground, or has hard time twisting while seated on the floor. You will still get the benefit of spinal rotation, adductor work and abductor stretch without compromising your lower back and sacrum.

One leg up

Ardha Matsyendrasana: One leg up adds an intense stretch to your hamstrings and abductors, while engaging your quadriceps. Keep the knee of the extended leg slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight, otherwise your pelvis will tip backwards, compromising the foundation of the pose.