Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

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Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose, Ardha Matsyendrasana, (ur-dhuh mut-sye-ndraa-suh-nuh)

ardha (half) + matsya (fish) + indra (lord) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Bound Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, Seated Twist Pose, Half Spinal Twist Pose,

Pose Type: Twisting, Stretching, Seated

Difficulty: Beginner

man wearing all black doing the half lord of the fishes pose

Squeeze your organs and improve digestion, posture, and spinal awareness as you come into this twist

Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose Fundamentals

This seated twist provides a therapeutic effect on the whole body.  The pose has been around for centuries and is included in Hatha Yoga as one of the 12 core positions. In this pose, the spine gets a beautiful, deep twist, and the whole upper body and the hips receive a stretch and tension relief. 

There is an interesting legend behind this pose, tied to a renowned yoga teacher, sage Matsyendranath, who founded Hatha yoga. As surprising as that may be for someone who is considered to be the second person to ever attain enlightenment, Matsyendranath went through horrible treatment as a child.

Born at a time which was considered to be bad luck, he was thrown into the ocean by his parents. There, a fish swallowed him, and he lived within its stomach for years. One day, he encountered Shiva, while he was teaching yoga to his wife. After receiving the yogic knowledge himself, he continued to practice it for many years inside the fish. Once he reached enlightenment, he was sent by Shiva to spread the knowledge of yoga to others. The full expression of Half Of The Lord Of The Fishes Pose was his favorite asana for meditation and was named after him.

The first chapter in Hatha Yoga Pradipika states this pose activates the digestive fire so much, that it can heal all stomach diseases. This stimulation is also believed to help awaken the Kundalini energy, symbolized as a serpent.

an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes doing half lord of the fishes pose

Half Lord Of The Fishes & The Chakra System

In this gorgeous and restorative stretch, you will also stimulate the Solar Plexus (Manipura) chakra, which is responsible for self-confidence and a sense of purpose.

In this way, it can help you feel more secure in yourself, and attain a higher level of willpower and self-discipline

Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose Benefits

  • Stretches and lengthens the spine, back muscles, neck, upper abdominal muscles, hips, and shoulders.
  • Massages the internal organs, stimulating digestion, metabolism, and detoxification. 
  • Since it opens the chest, this pose may also help the practitioner breathe deeper and learn how to bring awareness to the breath. This automatically helps improve the alignment of the spine.
  • The pose provides relief from fatigue and has a relaxing and energizing effect as it twists the spine and releases tension from the upper body. 
  • May help combat imbalances in the body as an asymmetrical pose.

How To Do Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose: Step-By-Step

a gif of a man doing half lord of the fishes pose

How To Get There:

1. Sit on the mat with your legs extended in front of you, in Staff Pose (Dandasana). Bend your right knee and move your right leg over the left. Place the foot outside the left thigh, close to the hip. 

2. Now bend the left knee and bring it close to your body. Place the left foot close to the right buttock, similarly as you would in a classic cross-legged sit.

3. Keep your right knee close to your torso. With an inhale, elongate your spine, and on the exhalation, twist your body to the right. Place the right palm on the floor behind you, where it naturally falls. 

4. Place the elbow of the left arm to the outside of the right knee. Keep the arm bent in a cactus position, or extend it and grab the right foot for the full expression of the pose. 

5. While in your twist, make sure your head, neck, shoulders, and chest are in alignment. The raised knee and your torso should be close together. 

6. Try to distribute your weight evenly between both hips to make sure your entire spine enjoys the twist. To achieve that, both sit bones should be firmly grounded on the floor. 

7. Hold the pose for a couple of breaths, as long as comfortable. Release your body by folding for a moment to the opposing side to counter the twist, then return into Staff pose, and repeat the same steps on the other side. 

Tips And Tricks:

  • Keep your back passive, and your shoulders and neck relaxed to reap the greatest benefit from this pose.
  • This pose is intense, and you could easily injure yourself if you go too deep. Make sure you listen to your body and go only as deep as comfortable.
  • Instead of forcing or rushing the twist, use your breath to guide you. With each inhale, lengthen your spine, and on an exhalation, twist gradually deeper, making sure you respect your boundaries.  
  • Prop yourself on a cushion or a folded blanket if it is difficult to keep both hips on the ground or maintain a straight spine in this pose. 
  • Twist to the right first, as that places the pressure on the ascending colon while twisting to the left stimulates the descending colon. Practicing in this manner mimics your natural digestion, and is more beneficial.

Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose Variation:

Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose Variation: One Leg Extended

a gif of a man doing half lord of the fishes pose with one leg extended

This variation is an ideal option as a preparation for the full expression of the pose. It simplifies the asana as only one hip is in internal rotation, compared to the classic position where both hips are rotated.

In this variation, the top leg is still bent, and in the same position as the full expression of the pose. But instead of tucking the bottom leg beneath the opposite buttock, keep it extended in front of you, just like in Staff pose. 

Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose Variation: Arm Placement

There are multiple ways you can place your arms in this pose, and each variation changes its difficulty. For an easier variation, wrap your hand around your knee instead of pressing the elbow next to your thigh. Another way in which you can make the pose easier is by placing a block or a book beneath the hand behind you.

To make the twist deeper, you can also bind your hands in this pose. Place the opposing hand under the bent knee and clasp with the other hand (e.g. the left hand should be under the right knee if that’s the elevated leg). 

Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose Against a Wall

If you want to deepen the twist, you can also perform this pose next to a wall. Sit with your back facing the wall, around a foot or two away from it. The ideal distance will depend on the length of your arms. 

When twisting, place the left arm on the wall if you’re twisting towards the left. Use this pressure to further twist your body to the left, but make sure you’re not overdoing it. If doing this variation, make sure you repeat it on the right side as well. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Rounded Back. Keep your spine long and your back straight, and not slouched or rounded. 

Shoulders. You don’t need to strain or activate your shoulders while holding the pose, keep them relaxed and away from the ears. 

Glutes Off The Ground. Make sure you don’t lift the hip and the foot of the raised knee off the ground, keep them glued to the mat at all times.

Neck, Knee, or Back Injury

If you’re suffering from chronic or severe back, knee or neck pain, you should practice under supervision, or refrain from the pose. Avoid the pose if you have slip disc problems or any other spinal issue.

Pregnancy and Internal Organ Issues

Pregnant women should avoid this pose as it may place pressure on the fetus. Additionally, if you struggle with any internal organ issues, it might be better to avoid it or do a gentle variation, as the full version might be too difficult or painful. 

Related Poses

Lord of the Fishes Pose

Sage Marichi Pose C

Cow Face Pose

Noose Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Eagle Pose

Revolved Head to Knee Pose

Pigeon Pose

Counter Poses:

Seated Angle Pose

Bound Angle Pose

Seated Forward Bend Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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