Ardha Matsyendrasana – Half Lord Of Fishes Pose, How To Do, Benefits

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Half Fish Lord Pose or Half Lord of Fishes Pose, in this pose the practitioner assumes the shape of half of the lord of fish or half fish and hence the name.

This is also known as Vakrasana according to some opinions – ‘Half Spinal Twist Pose’. This pose is supposed to be named after the yogi Matsyendranath. It is a seated spinal twist with lot of variations to the main pose. It is also one of the basic asanas used in Hatha Yoga practices.

This pose effectively strengthens the spine, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems. Also stimulates the digestive fire. It gives a good stretch to your neck and shoulders.
Read – Hatha Yoga and Shat Karmas: Benefits, Precautions

Meaning

Ardha = half
Matsya – fish
Indra = lord
Asana = pose

Preparation for Ardha Matsyendrasana

  • This pose should be performed early morning, for empty stomach.
  • If it is practiced at evening or any other part of the day, food should be taken 3-4 hours before practicing pose. This will help in digestion of food as well as evacuation of stomach before taking up the pose. This will also help in providing the needed energy for performing the pose.
  • The bowel and bladder is kept empty while starting the asana.

Method of doing

Positioning for the Asana

Sit in Dandasana – staff pose – with legs stretched out and spine erect. Your feet should be placed together.

Performing Ardha Matsyendrasana

Bend left leg such that left heel is placed next to the right hip. You may also keep left leg stretched.

Then flex right leg at the knee and take right leg crossing over the left knee. Place right foot next to the left knee or on the outer border of left thigh. Left leg is placed on the floor with knee bent. Right leg is vertical (standing) with knee bent and pointed towards the ceiling. Both the knees are aligned in a single line, one over the other.

Pull right knee towards abdomen such that it presses and massages abdomen gently.

Gently raise left hand up towards the ceiling and bring it across right knee such that left elbow is placed on the outer border of right thigh or knee and left palm (and fingers face up towards the ceiling. Here you may use left elbow as a lever to press right knee inwards deep towards abdomen.

  1. If you have a good flexibility you can extend crossed left arm and hold the right shin or foot with left hand, as flexibility may allow you to do. You are still pressing right knee inwards with elbow while doing so.
  2. You can alternatively wrap around right knee with left hand.
  3. If you are too flexible and can challenge yourself even more, you can extend the left hand in front of you such that left hand touches the floor right in front of left lower leg. Here you have almost brought your left shoulder closer to the upper (right) knee.

Now taking right arm behind you, twist torso, neck and head back as you rotate. Place right palm behind you as you rotate as if you are trying to look back. This provides the essential stretch to the body. Taking right arm back creates the essential twist needed for the pose and also opens up chest. You also experience nice twist and stretch in the back.

Further challenge in the twist – Tuck left hand underneath the upper (right) knee and take it to back. Simultaneously wind right hand behind back. Clasp both hands or interlock the fingers of right and left hands behind the back. Inhale deeply. As you exhale go into the twist and look back.

Hold on to this pose for 3-4 deep breath counts or for 30-60 seconds.

Release from the asana

  • Inhale.
  • Bring left arm up in the air, to left side releasing its lock over the right knee.
  • Exhale and bring the left arm to the floor. While exhaling, also release right arm, waist, chest and neck in that order.
  • Simultaneously bring right leg back to its side and extend it. Gradually extend left leg too.
  • Sit back in Dandasana. Sit straight, breathe easily and relax.
  • Repeat the same steps on opposite side.

Note – You may also enter this pose from Vakrasana or Gomukhasana.
Read – Bhekasana – Frog Pose, How To Do, Benefits, Effect On Dosha

Variant 1

Start by sitting in Dandasana pose.

Gently flex left knee. Now right limb is stretched and left limb is bent at the knee, the left foot comfortably placed by the side of the right knee on the ground pressing against it. The bent right knee is facing the ceiling.

Now lift left arm up, take it behind the body and place it on the floor such that left palm and fingers press against the floor behind you.

Now twist torso with the support of left arm grounded to the floor. Belly moves towards the left side. While doing so get right arm across bent left knee such that right elbow is in contact with the outer part of left knee and forearm and fingers or right hand face the ceiling. Gently push bent left knee inwards with the help of right elbow. Look straight towards left side. If your flexibility allows you, you can turn head with a gentle twist and look back. This will give body a deep twist and stretch.

Release by bringing left arm to the front and taking right hand to the right and gently extending left leg. Breathe easily and relax.

Repeat the same steps on the opposite side.
Read – Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand Pose, Method, Benefits, Dosha Effect

Variant 2

Start with Dandasana.
Lift and bend left knee as in variant 1.
Flex right leg at knee and tuck the leg beneath bent left leg. The heel of right foot now touches the outside of left butt and toes point outside.
Left foot is now in front of right knee with its heel almost touching the knee. The left bent knee is vertical and facing the ceiling.
Keep spine erect, chest open and tummy tucked in. Breathe easily.
Walk left foot little forward.
Breathe in. Lift left arm and take it to your back and place it on the floor behind you (as in variant 1). This will open up chest and give you the essential twist.
Now lift right hand and bring it across the outer part of bent left knee with the right elbow in contact with left knee. Extend hand and gently hold the left shin with right hand. Lengthen your spine.
Inhale. With exhale twist head and torso so as to look back.
With every inhalation you lengthen spine and with every exhalation you are twisting the spine.
Enjoy and appreciate the twist. Be in the pose for few breathes and release.
Inhale and release in the same way as you did in variant 1 step by step.
Repeat the same steps on the opposite side also.

Watch this video to follow the method of doing Ardha Matsyendrasana
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYy6w8_hLTE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MDMXrOu7Kg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJpyMgbxytU

Modifications

Try to wrap arms comfortably around knee instead of bringing elbow to the thigh.

Keep bottom leg extended rather than keeping it flexed.

Try doing the pose by sitting on a chair with legs crossed instead of on the floor. Twist towards the top leg. Focus on lengthening spine while grabbing the side, back or armrest of the chair. Stay for few breaths. Repeat the same on the other side.
Read – How To Do Pranayama – A Simple Pranayama Technique

Science behind Ardha Matsyendrasana

Twisting is the key secret of this pose since it is fortifying for body and bestows amazing benefits. This pose will help you to stretch outer hips and thighs. It also opens up the front of your shoulders and chest. It builds the strength along the sides of the body. It squeezes and rehydrates spongy intervertebral discs as you twist the body and hence will keep your spine healthy. This pose is extremely relaxing for your body and mind.

To bring a deep and effective twist you need to lengthen spine and create enough space between each of vertebrae. Use breath to deepen these stretches. Lengthen yourself as you inhale and twist deeper as you exhale.

You need to practice this pose with awareness and dedication. When you do this, the twist provided by this pose confronts you with the reality of the happenings in you. It will let you know what is going on in hips, spine, joints, body and the mind. It allows you to get total awareness of body, mind and if muscles are stiff and if breath patterns are balanced or otherwise.
Read – Types Of Pranayama – Effect on Health – Through An Ayurveda View-Point

Health Benefits

  • Gives good stretch to back, abductors of thighs, butts and quadriceps muscles
  • Loosens the hip joints and releases stiffness
  • Strengthens and supports the muscles around spine, makes spine flexible
  • It gives a good stretch to one side of the body. At the same time it also compresses the muscles of the opposite side.
  • Relieves stiffness and tension in the back, symptoms of slipped disc and backache
  • Corrects and improves posture
  • It counteracts the ill-effects of sitting for long hours and is thus helpful for people in seated jobs and those who work for long hours on computers.
  • Increases blood circulation, purifies the blood
  • Massages the organs of the abdomen and stimulates and improves digestion
  • Facilitates intestinal peristalsis
  • Relieves constipation, bloating and gaseous distension
  • It helps open up chest, increases oxygenation to the lungs and enables easy breathing
  • Increases blood circulation to the pelvis and hence maintains the health of reproductive and urinary system. It also helps to cure urinary tract infections and diseases.
  • It tones up the spinal nerves and improves functions of spinal cord
  • The pose provides massage and also stimulates pancreas. Therefore it helps patients of diabetes.
  • It is helpful in menstrual disorders.
  • Helps in secretion of bile juices and adrenaline
  • Improves awareness of body
  • Improves awareness of posture
  • Helps in relieving stress

Preparatory Poses

  • Baddha Konasanae
  • Janu Sirsasana
  • Virasana
  • Supta Padangusthasana
  • Bharadvajasana

    Follow Up Poses

Time spent doing the pose

One needs to be in this pose for at least 3-4 deep breaths or for a time period of 30-60 seconds or as comfortable one feels in the pose for better benefits. The same time should be spent while the pose is done on the opposite side.

Impact on Chakras

Ardha Matsyendrasana activates, energizes and balances the Navel Chakra i.e. Manipura Chakra, the Sacral Chakra i.e. Swadisthana Chakra and the Root Chakra i.e. Muladhara Chakra.

Contraindications, Precautions

Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Ardha Matsyendrasana –

  • Acute back pain or injuries
  • Back surgeries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Disc bulge, Severe slip disc
  • Disc herniation
  • Pain in sacroiliac joint
  • Severe arthritis
  • Hernia
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Spinal problems
  • Those who have undergone recent surgeries on brain, heart or abdomen

Do the pose with caution if you have –

  • Knee pain
  • Knee injuries
  • Knee replacement
  • Arthritis of Knee
  • Hip pain or arthritis
  • Hip replacement

Caution

Avoid during menstruation and pregnancy.
Those having minor disc slip problem should do it under supervision of an expert Yoga tutor or physician.
Read – Classification Of Pain And Arthritis As Per Ayurveda

Impact on doshas and tissues

Impact on Doshas and its subtypes – Since this pose improves digestion it is beneficial for balancing samana vata and pachaka pitta. This is further substantiated by the balancing effect of this pose on the solar plexus. The pose also facilitates proper peristalsis and is a good remedy for bloating and constipation and hence is good for balanced functioning of apana vata. This role is further supported by the fact that the pose balances root and sacral chakras which also contributes towards the maintenance of health of urinary and reproductive systems. Since the pose opens up the chest and enables easy breathing and oxygenation and also helps in proper blood circulation, it is beneficial for functioning of udana vata and avalambaka kapha. It relieves stress and creates awareness and good for nerves by its balancing effect on prana vata, vyana vata and tarpaka kapha.

Impact on tissues – Since Ardha Matsyendrasana strengthens, stretches and enhances the flexibility of the muscles and tendons, it is good for the muscle tissue and also for the channels conducting the muscle tissue. Seeing the benefits of this pose we can appreciate that it is good for the health of bones, joints, and spine and blood tissues and also for the healthy conduction to take place in the channels related to bones and blood tissue.

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)

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