ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA: HALF LORD OF THE FISHES

Twists are a great way to re-energize the body and promote spinal flexibility. This can help us to reduce pain, improve posture and balance both sides of the body. I would recommend doing a twist every day if you can because they have so many benefits! 

The seated twist we’ll be looking at in this post has a really weird name, and I think it’s one if the poses that makes people think you need to be able to bend yourself into a pretzel in order to do yoga. But fear not, my friends! There are ways for us to modify this pose so that we can all get the benefits.

BENEFITS OF HALF LORD OF THE FISHES:

  • revitalizes the spine
  • stimulates the digestive system (great first thing in the morning)
  • energizing
  • promotes detoxification
  • relieves pain 
  • opens the shoulders
  • improves hip flexibility
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Bend the right knee and place the foot flat on the floor. Cross the foot over the top of the left leg so that the foot is beside the left knee. Then bend the left leg so that the left foot comes beside the right hip. Evenly press into both sit bones. Lengthen your spine. Pull your belly button in, then begin to twist toward the right. Reach back with the right hand so that the palm is flat against the floor. This encourages the chest to open. Wrap the left arm around the right knee. Or press the outside of the left elbow into the outside of the right knee. Whichever position feels more comfortable for your shoulder is fine. Keep the jaw relaxed and the chin parallel with the floor. You may take the gaze over the right shoulder or keep the gaze straight ahead. Keep the spine tall and the chest proud as you breathe here. You may feel your hips shift a little bit to accommodate the twist. This is okay as long as the sit bones are still evenly rooted to the earth. Remember that you don’t need to force the twist as deep as you possibly can. Bring yourself to the place in the pose where you’re experiencing sensation but can still breathe deeply. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths on the right side, then practice on the left side.

 

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BOTTOM LEG EXTENDED

If you have sensitive knees, it might feel better to straighten the bottom leg. Otherwise, the same alignment tips from above would apply. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths and then practice on the opposite side.

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GAZE STRAIGHT AHEAD

Keeping your gaze straight ahead is recommended for stroke survivors and for those of us who may have neck pain or cervical instability. 

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ADDING A BLOCK 

If you’re hand doesn’t reach the floor, you can place a yoga block or folded blanket under the hand. Being able to actively reach the heel of the hand toward the floor will encourage your shoulders to open and is also energetically grounding.

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EASY SEATED VARIATION

If bending your legs into this pretzel shape doesn’t feel good, that’s okay. A simple seated twist is just as beneficial. You can do this on the floor with the ankles crossed or seated in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Feel free to elevate your hips with a cushion or folded blanket so that the hips and knees stay comfortable. Keep both sit bones rooting into the earth as you lengthen your spine. Pull the belly button in and twist to the right. Reach back with the right hand and gently grasp the right knee with your left hand. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths and then practice on the left side. 

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CHAIR VARIATIONS

Be seated in your chair at the edge of the seat away from the back. Place the feet flat on the floor. From here, you may lift the right foot and place it on top of a block or you may cross the right knee over the left. Root the sit bones into your seat and lift through the crown of your head. Pull the belly in and twist to the right. You can place the right hand flat on the seat of the chair or you can hold onto the back of the chair. The left hand puts gentle pressure on the outside of the right knee. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side.

 

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SUPINE VARIATION 

If being upright isn’t an option for you right now, you can choose to do a supine twist instead. You’ll still get the same benefits. To come into the seriation, lying on your back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Present to the soles of your feet and shift the hips slightly to the right.  Keep the shoulders pressing into the earth as you drop the knees over to the left. Extend the arms into a T position to open the chest and keep the shoulders rooted. Rest here for ten deep breaths and then practice on the opposite side. If you’d like a deeper stretch, you can practice this pose with one knee crossed over the other, alternating the top leg when you switch to the opposite side.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses.