How to Do Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

How to Do Half Lord of the Fishes Pose - Ardha Matsyendrasana
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose - Ardha Matsyendrasana. Ann Pizer

Also Known As: Seated Spinal Twist, Half Spinal Twist

Targets: Side and upper back stretch

Level: Beginner

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) is a deep twist that is one of the 12 basic poses of Hatha yoga. One of the greatest things about yoga is that it puts you in positions you generally don't do in the normal course of your day. Moving in different ways accesses places where you didn't even realize you were holding tension. This is definitely true of deep twists, which get into your upper back, neck, and spine.

Benefits

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose stretches the side body, upper back, and neck. It improves spinal mobility. It's important to keep these areas loose and mobile to prevent pain from repetitive stress injuries. Twists can also help things, ahem, get moving in your abdominal organs if you are constipated.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You will start this pose seated on your yoga mat.

  1. From Staff Pose (with legs straight in front of your body), bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot to the floor on the outside of your right thigh.
  2. Bend your right knee and tuck your right foot in near your left buttock.
  3. Inhale and bring your right arm straight up beside your right ear.
  4. Exhale and twist your torso to the left, bringing your right elbow to the outside of your left knee and the left palm to the floor just behind your sit bones.
  5. Take your gaze over your left shoulder, but don’t strain the neck; the twist comes from your belly, not your neck.
  6. On each inhale, draw the spine up tall. On each exhale, deepen the twist a little.
  7. Be sure to keep the sole of your left foot firmly planted flat on the floor.
  8. When you release the pose, take a slight twist to the opposite direction as a counter pose.
  9. Release the legs and switch their position as you prepare to twist to the other side.

Common Mistakes

Keep your back straight and vertebrae stacked during this twist, not rounded.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

If you normally use a blanket or other prop under your sit bones for seated poses, it's fine to do that here as well. 

Keep the right leg extended if you cannot comfortably tuck it under your left buttock. 

Hug the left knee with your right arm if that feels better than bringing the right elbow outside the left knee.

Up for a Challenge?

Come into a bind with the arms. Keeping the right elbow outside the left knee, thread your right arm underneath your left thigh.

Lift your left hand off the floor and reach it behind your back. Clasp the left wrist with your right hand.

If you can take the bind but find that doing so makes your chest turn toward the floor, return to the unbound version of the pose. Only proceed with the bind if you can keep your chest open toward the ceiling while you do it.

Safety and Precautions

You should avoid this pose if you have back problems, had recent surgery, or are pregnant. It might not be comfortable during menstruation.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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