fun pose friday: ardha matsyendrasana

Greetings yogis! In this week’s fun pose friday we’ll break down half lord of the fishes pose, a delightful twist otherwise known as ardha matsyendrasana.

For ardha matsyendrasana, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Externally rotate the left knee and begin to slide your left foot under your right leg. Your left foot should land near your right hip with the outside of the left leg resting on the floor.

Step the right foot over the left knee, planting it on the floor outside of your left thigh.

Place your right hand on the mat, just behind your back, and on an inhale, lengthen the back and raise the left arm. On an exhale, twist toward the inside of the right thigh, bringing your left arm to the outside of your right leg.

With every inhalation, try to find more length in the back. On each exhalation, attempt to twist more deeply.  Distribute the twist evenly throughout the spine. Make sure to avoid concentrating the twist in the lower back.


Hold ardha matsyendrasana for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then release on an exhale, turning back to center. Repeat these steps to do the pose on the opposite side.

If you’d like to try a more advanced version of ardha matsyendrasana, hands can be bound behind the back, which deepens the twist and provides more opening in the chest and shoulders. To do this version, when you are bringing the lifted left arm to the outside of the right knee, sit up tall and snuggle the armpit in as close to the leg as you can get it.

Rotate at your shoulder, bringing the hand closer to the floor and turning the palm back to face back toward the left side of your mat. Hinge at the elbow and try to work your left arm in between the shin and thigh of the right leg.

At the same time, wind your right arm behind your back, trying to get the fingers of the right hand to connect with the fingers of the left hand. If you’re unable to clasp your hands, you can use a strap and grab on with both hands. Once you’ve clasped hands, or are holding on to the strap, broaden the chest and lengthen the spine.

When practicing ardha matsyendrasana, if you feel like you’re going to tip over, or your back is rounding, place a block or blanket underneath your hips. This should enable the pelvis to tip forward, making it easier to feel stable and prevent the back from rounding.

Benefits of ardha matsyendrasana include:

• Stretches shoulders, chest, hips, and neck

• Strengthens abdominal muscles

• Can stimulate the liver and kidneys and aid in digestion

• Increases spinal flexibility and range of motion

• May relieve fatigue, sciatica, and backaches

There are several considerations when doing ardha matsyendrasana for people with lower back, neck, shoulder or knee problems.

If you have a lumbar disc issue, ask your doctor if it is safe to do a twisting pose like ardha matsyendrasana.  For neck problems, make sure you are only twisting from the core and keep your gaze forward, with your head facing out over the center of your body.  If you have a shoulder injury, it’s a good idea not to bind your arms behind the back. For knee problems, it is advisable to keep the leg that is on the ground straight out in front of you, rather than crossing it underneath you.


For more on ardha matsyendrasana, check out this tutorial from Yoga Journal.

Have a great weekend yogis! See you on the mat!