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Ardha Matsyendrasana: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose


A great pose to improve the overall health of your spine, ardha matsyendrasana (ARE-dah MOT-see-en-DRAHS-anna) is an approachable twist that will open your 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, 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 are 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 our 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.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

FOLLOW-UP 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.
  • Relieves tension in thoracic (mid) spine.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Increases energy along the central energetic channel in the body, sushumna nadi.
  • Stimulates agni, the digestive fire in the body.

MANTRA:

Om Namah Shivaya Mantra

Used to acknowledge the creative power of Lord Shiva (of whom Matsyendra is said to be an embodiment), repeating this mantra helps to bring you into the flow of the universe so that you can accept and celebrate what is. To practice chant, “Om Namah Shivaya, Namah Shivaya, Nama Shiva,” which translates, “I bow to Lord Shiva, the peaceful one who is the embodiment of all that is caused by the universe.”

MUDRA: Gyan Mudra

Said to stimulate the brain in order to increase knowledge and concentration, gyan mudra is a great way to awaken the body, mind, and subtle bodies. To practice, bring the tip of the index finger to the tip of the thumb.

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