Ardha Matsyendrasana – Half Spinal Twist Pose
Ardha Matsyendrasana or the half spinal twist pose is one the main asanas practiced in hatha yoga. In sanskrit ‘ardha’ means ‘half’, ‘matsya’ means ‘fish’, ‘indra’ means ‘king’ and ‘asana’ means ‘pose’. Ardha Matsyendrasana literally means the half twist pose of the king of fishes. But the name Matsyendrasana probably came from the fact that it was promoted by one of the first Gurus of the Navnath tradition, Yogi Matsyendranath. He taught an asana called Matsyendrasana, which is the full spinal twist pose. Since it was very difficult to perform, the half twist pose was created and promoted. Today only the half twist pose or Ardha Matsyendrasana is commonly taught, as the full twist pose can probably be done only by yoga experts and gymnasts.
How to do Ardha Matsyendrasana?
- Sit with legs straight and stretched in front of you.
- Bend the right leg, lift it and place in on the left side of the stretched left foot.
- Bend the left leg and bring to close to the body. Place it under the right buttocks.
- Take the left arm around the right leg and grab the toes of the right leg with the left hand. The left armpits will be close to the right knee. This may be difficult in the beginning. You need a flexible back and spine to achieve this. If you cannot hold the toes, then hold the ankles or part the lower leg to start with. Later with practice you will be able to hold the toes.
- Now turn to towards the right and simultaneously move the right hand behind the back. Twist the back and the neck to as far right as possible. Exhale while twisting the back and neck.
- Remain in this position as much as possible. Breathe normally and slowly in this final position. You may maintain the position from few seconds to a minute, as per your comfort.
- Return to the original position (both legs stretched forward). Inhale while coming back to the original position.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Benefits of Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Ardha matsyendrasana is one of the best poses to improve the flexibility of the spine. It keeps your spine young.
- It stretches the muscles along the spinal column and tones the spinal nerves. This can relieve some mild pains caused by stiff back.
- It is good for mild cases of slipped disk.
- It massages the organs in the abdominal region.
- It improves digestion.
- It tones the kidneys and improves secretion of the adrenal glands.
- It activates the pancreas and helps to manage diabetes.
The full spinal twist pose called Matsyendrasana as taught by Yogi Matsyendranath is more difficult to perform. That requires tremendous flexibility of the legs and hips and hence is practiced only by advanced yoga practitioners.