Encyclopedia of Yoga: Ardha Matsyendrasana

This is the pose that is dedicated to the Sage known as, Matsyendranath. Sometimes people call this pose, Lord of the Half Fishes Pose.  You can take those individual words, Matsya, meaning fish, and Ardha, meaning Half. Contained in, Matsyendranath, is also the word for King, or ruler.  You have all those put together for quite a powerful posture.

This seated spinal twist brings you into the center of the body, and helps you access the deep space of the pelvic bowl.

Foundation and Alignment

In a twisting posture, the hips are your foundation. You want to avoid twisting from the pelvis, and instead, empty out the pelvic bowl. Twist from the thoracic spine.  In this posture, it is very important. To enter the pose on the right side, fold your left knee underneath. You want to make sure that your knee feels good.  If there is any discomfort in the knee, there is a modification (below). Close the knee joint and bring it all the way in.  You will notice that the knee lines up with the sternum. Right foot on top. Take a moment, and settle your hips in between the open place between your left foot and the left hip–both sitting bones are on the ground. You want to see both of the knees lined up along the center line.  Make sure that you can see your toes ahead of your right knee. 

Entering the Twist

Inhale, as you suck the belly in. Drop the right hip, down. Allow a gentle, internal rotation of the right hip. Hug your torso close to your thigh. Gently wrap your left arm around, holding onto the right side, looking over the right shoulder. Pointing the left foot, both sitting bones down, look over your right shoulder. This is nice and easy.  If you don’t want to go any further, all is good.

Pivoting Deeper 

Slowly suck the belly in. Begin to lift the rib cage all the way around the right thigh. You can press on the thigh, and pivot around. Take your right hand on the ground. Drop the left shoulder in front of the right knee. Reach down. Hook the shoulder under, spinning the armpit, up. Grab the foot by spinning the armpit, down. If you can’t reach your foot, you can hold onto the knee, or leave your hand on the ground. Lift your chest up, keep your left shoulder down. Lifting the chest up, reaching around. The second option, is simply to leave your right hand behind you, looking over the right shoulder.

The Full Posture

If you feel comfortable, inhale, lift your chest up, and exhale. Reach around, taking your right hand and just kind of wiggle it around until you can find the top of the left thigh. Look over your right shoulder.

Modifying When Necessary

This is a way that you can repeat this pose, and relieve any burden that may be too stressed on your knee. Simply cross the foot over, leaving a relatively big space. In this version of the posture, I would keep it relatively simple. Work on bringing your chest close to your thigh, and twisting along the center line. Don’t worry about binding your hands.

Remember the Journey

Remember that yoga is a journey into the center of your self. Never judge yourself by the success or failure of your body, to make a shape. We’re interested in the journey.  So, regardless of what shape your body is able to make, dive down into the inner experience.  And tune in to the power of the ancient tradition of yoga, which is really what this pose represents. Keep the seed of inspiration to practice, every day.

By Kino MacGregor

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Kino MacGregor is a world renowned Ashtanga Yoga teacher, the author of several yoga inspired books, including The Yogi Assignment, and founder of OmStars.com. Practice the Ashtanga Yoga Full Primary Series online with Kino to get started on your journey today.