Reclined Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Reclined Twist Pose, Supta Matsyendrasana, (SOOP-tah MAHT-see-en-DRAH-suh-nuh)

supta (supine) + matsyendra (lord of the fish) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Reclined Spinal Twist, Supine Spinal Twist, Belly Twist, Jathara Parivrtti

Pose Type: Supine, Twisting, Stress Relief, Back Pain, Menstruation, Restorative

Difficulty: Beginner

woman doing a supine spinal twist pose

Decompress and rinse off life’s stresses in a Reclined Twist Pose

reclined twist Pose Fundamentals

Decompress your spine and release tension in the whole body in this restorative twisting pose. The Supine Spinal Stretch stimulates the organs, aiding in detoxification. It releases tension in the body, which will also have an effect on your mind, reducing anxiety and restoring balance, both mentally and physically.

This is a beginner twisting pose that focuses on twisting the hips and releasing tension in the spine.

It is the reclined, and more restorative version of the seated Lord of the Fishes pose.

Twists in general are often used as a remedy for slow digestion, fatigue, and any kind of physical or energetic congestion and stagnation in the body.

This pose will release tension in the back and neck, work deep into your spine and improve breathing. In this manner, you will feel more energized and refreshed after practicing, especially if you decide to do a restorative version with props and where it’s held for longer, often around at least 15 deep breaths.

This pose can work well both as a warm-up and a cool-down. If you’re doing it to prepare for more intense twists or backbends, try a dynamic variation, where you are moving your leg from one side to the other, holding at the bottom for just a moment.

The pose is more commonly done in the cool-down portion of the class. It may feel especially soothing after a series of deep backbends, but is also a worthy addition to a daily routine for those who tend to slouch a lot, or spend a lot of time sitting.

This is one of the principal poses in the Iyengar school of yoga. The yoga master and founder of the school B.K.S Iyengar describes what happens in twists as “squeeze-and-soak”. With this term, he explains the action which happens within the body – the twist compresses, or “squeezes” the organs, helping to release blood that contains build-ups and toxins. Once the twist is released, it “soaks” the organs with new blood. In this manner, twists have a reinvigorating effect on the organs.

Mentally, the pose will first help you to bring awareness back into the body, and to feel centered. By releasing the tension in the hips, spine, and back, it will feel restorative and calming.

Energetically, Supta Matsyendrasana works on the Sacral (Svadhisthana) chakra, which is the center of our emotions and sexuality. In this manner, it may bring out emotions you’ve been holding, allowing you to express them, whether it’s by simply breathing deeper, crying, or using words or sounds. Once you release these emotional blockages and balance the Sacral chakra, you will feel greater emotional stability and self-confidence and will be empowered to come in touch with your creative and sexual energy (which are considered to be the same thing in spirituality).

reclined twist Pose Benefits

  • Stretches the psoas, glute, and abdominal muscles. It also lengthens the entire back and the spine. 
  • By strengthening and lengthening the muscles around your spine, the pose may help you improve your posture over time.
  • Stimulates the organs. The pose releases toxins and build-ups and boosts blood circulation in the organs.
  • Calms the nervous system, which has a deeply relaxing effect on both the body and the mind.
  • Combats fatigue and energizes the body.

How To Do reclined twist Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

1. Begin lying on your back, in Reclined Mountain Pose. Bend your knees and bring your feet close to your hips. Press your feet to the floor, and lift your hips off the ground. Then shift them slightly to the left. Doing this will help you to keep your hips neutral when you twist.

2. Extend your right leg flat in front of you and flex the foot, pushing the toes towards you. Now, bring the left knee towards your chest.

3. With an exhalation, cross the left knee over your torso towards the right. Your hips should now be stacked. You can keep the leg in a 90-degree position, or slightly lower the angle and place the left foot under the right knee.

4. Open your left arm to the side, so it’s in the same line as your shoulders. You can extend the right arm to the side as well, or place it on the left thigh for added weight (don’t push the knee down forcefully!).

5. Keep your head in a neutral position, or gaze towards the left for the full expression of this pose. If twisting the head strains your neck, bring the head back to the front. 

6. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths. If you’re doing a restorative variation, place a bolster beneath the twisting leg and hold it for a bit longer.

7. When you’re ready to release the pose, come back to the Corpse pose. Stay in this neutral position for a couple of deep breaths before you proceed to the other side.

Tips And Tricks:

  • Sometimes, this pose can cause tingling in the hands when the arms are extended to the sides. If that’s the case for you, experiment with arm positions. For example, you can bend them at the elbow for the “cactus arm” position. You can also place them lower and closer to your body, or on your ribs. 
  • If the opposite is true for you, and you feel you would like to stretch your chest and arms even more, then extend one or both arms up and behind you, or place them under your head (like you would for sit-ups).
  • Regardless of the shape you go for, never lift the shoulders off the floor to deepen the twist. Shoulders are the foundation of this pose, support the torso and prevent hyperextension and injury in the lower body.
  • Don’t jerk or force the twist, use the breath to guide you, and twist slowly, and with awareness.
  • Your arm should only slightly help push the twisted leg to the ground using added weight and gravity, you shouldn’t do it forcefully. 
  • Don’t hold your breath, keep it deep, rhythmic, and smooth.
  • If you feel any tingling or sharp pain, come out of the pose immediately. These are never good signs and won’t help you to improve your range of motion.

reclined twist Pose Variation:

Supine Spinal Stretch Variation: Both Legs Bent

reclined twist with blanket

Keeping one leg extended, and one bent is the full expression of this spinal twist. However, sometimes this can feel too intense. If that’s the case for you, perform the same pose, but with both knees bent and stacked.  This variation is often called Supta Matsyendrasana II. If it is difficult to stack your knees, you can place a cushion both beneath the knees and between them. 

Supine Spinal Stretch Variation: With A Bolster

reclined twist with bolster support

If you can’t bring both your knee to the floor and keep your shoulders on the ground, prioritize grounding the shoulders. In this case, your knee will float off the ground.

Although that is ok for shorter stretches, if you’re doing a restorative or yin version where the pose is held for longer, it might become uncomfortable.

In this case, place a bolster, cushion, or a block under the knee for support. In this manner, you will not only reduce the stretch, but also allow your leg muscles to relax in the pose. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Forcing the knee to touch the floor. If the knee falls to the floor naturally, that’s ok, but it is not required to feel the benefit of this pose. It’s more important to keep both shoulders on the floor.

Shoulders lifting off the floor. This misalignment is often connected with the previous one – when you’re forcing the knee or the twist to be deeper than your range of motion, the shoulder of the twisting leg will lift off the floor. If this happens, reduce the stretch to be able to keep your shoulders stacked. You can also play with the placement of your arms to help you with this. 

Knee, Hip, Or Back Injury

Avoid this pose if you recently had an injury or surgery in the knees, back or hips. Since there is a lot of compression happening in the abdominal region, also avoid it in case of recent internal organ surgery and during pregnancy. Also, refrain from the pose in the postnatal period after Cesarean birth surgery.

Related Posts

Lord of The Fishes Pose

Half Spinal Twist Pose

Thread The Needle Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Wind Relieving Pose

Bridge Pose

Happy Baby Pose

Counter Poses:

Wind Relieving Pose

Bridge Pose

Happy Baby 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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