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Ardha Matsyendrasana: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

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Ardha matsyendrasana (ARE-dah MOT-see-en-DRAHS-ah-nah) is an approachable twist that opens the shoulders and chest. A good antidote for too much sitting and symptoms that come with overusing technology, half lord of the fishes pose has the ability to increase energy in the body while also stoking the digestive fire in your belly.

Philosophy + Origin

Matsyendra is often recognized as one of the original founders of hatha yoga in yogic mythology. He was said to be a baby who was thrown into the ocean after his parents rejected him. The story of Matsyendra reminds us that it’s often the parts of our personal stories we don’t like or don’t want to accept that can be the most beneficial, especially on the path to becoming a yogi or yogini. Rather than conceptualizing the twist to be a purge of what is unwanted or unnecessary, think of the detoxification as a purification, an opportunity to take what was once viewed or understood as “bad” and transform it into something that is helpful on your personal journey.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Place a folded blanket under your hips to create space to lengthen the spine.
  • Option to extend the bottom leg forward rather than bending. This is a great variation for tender knees.
  • Option to hug the bent knee rather than bringing the upper outer arm outside the opposite thigh.
  • Option to bind the arms by clasping the hands behind your back.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Begin seated on your mat with both legs extended out in front of you (dandasana). Bend your right knee and step your foot to the outside of your left leg. Stay here, or bend your left knee so your left foot is next to your opposite hip.
  2. Place your right hand to the ground (or a block) behind your hips. Inhale to lift your left arm high, exhale to twist to the right and hook your left elbow outside your right thigh.
  3. Root down through your sitting bones and lift through the crown of your head. On every exhale, invite a gentle twist to the right.
  4. Option to take your gaze over your right shoulder.
  5. Hold for 5 breaths then release back to center. Pause in a seated shape for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

  • Baby grasshopper pose
  • Cow face pose | Gomukhasana

COUNTER POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Ardha = Half
  • Matsya = Fish
  • Indra = Ruler
  • Asana = Pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Increases flexibility and range of motion in the spine.
  • Opens chest and shoulders.
  • Can relieve tension in thoracic (mid) spine.
  • Stimulates agni, the digestive fire in the body.

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