Why ardha-matsyendrāsana (half fish twist)

Post By: Published on: December 10, 2016 Reading time: 5 minutes

What is ardha-matsyendrāsana (half fish twist pose)?

Ardha-matsyendrāsana is an āsana where a practitioner steadies the body around the hips in a lock and twists the lower back to hold the other side. This  is an advanced āsana and must be learned under expert supervision, after doctor clearance.

How to perform ardha-matsyendrāsana technique (should be learned under supervision)

  • Sthithi (starting) position: First, sit upright with legs stretched outwards.

    Yogacharya Sundaram demonstrating ardha-matsyendrāsana

  • Second, bend forward, hold the left foot and draw it so that the left heel is touching the perineum below the genitals. Men should carefully lift the scrotum away from harm. Ensure that heel is securely anchored on the perineum and does not shift.
  • Third, lift right leg over left thigh and plant sole of right foot as close as possible to the left hip joint.
  • Now, twist the torso around and tuck right knee under the left armpit. The feet must not shift or sway when torso twists.
  • After this, try to catch right knee with left hand by turning around and passing the hand over the back.
  • Finally, twist the torso further and try to catch right ankle with the right hand.
  • Lastly, turn the face in the direction of the twist.
  • Maintain shallow breathing. Hold for 10 counts. Return to sthithi (starting) position.
  • Importantly, repeat the āsana in the opposite direction in the same manner, so the spines twists in the opposite direction and balances the tension in the spine.
  • Performing this āsana once in both directions is enough.
  • The dṛṣṭi (gaze) recommended is ūrdhva-dṛṣṭi  (open space gaze).

What are the benefits of practicing ardha-matsyendrāsana? 

  • Firstly, this āsana is excellent for retaining spinal curvature. Regular practice will help prevent backache and hip ailments. Also, practice revitalises the shoulder blades and back muscles. Consequently, this increases flexibility of the body.
  • Importantly, this exercise also tones up the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system by increasing blood supply to the muscles holding individual vertebrae and nerve roots.
  • Further, the action of twisting the torso rejuvenates all the organs associated with digestion; the stomach, pancreas, liver and intestines. It optimises production of enzymes and absorption of nutrition. It also forces toxins out, thereby cleaning up the digestive system. As a result, this exercise is good for indigestion, constipation, diabetes, and other stomach ailments.
  • Lastly, this āsana improves functioning of the reproductive organs and assists women in reduction of menstrual discomfort and cramps.

What are the possible ardha-matsyendrāsana  contraindications?

  • Importantly, if you have any form of back ache, do not attempt this āsana without adequate supervision and support.
  • Also, people with cardiac problems, lower back problems and circulatory disorders should not attempt this āsana without first consulting a physician.
  • Additionally, people with hernia etc should avoid this āsana.
  • Lastly, this āsana should not be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy.

Hatha Yoga Pradeepika on matsyendrāsana

Ch1 v (26) matsyendrasana – Place right foot at the base of the left thigh and left foot outside the folded right knee. Catch the left foot with the right hand and turning around, catch the left foot with the right hand around the back. This is called matsendrasana

Ch1 v(27) This matsendrasana fans gastric fire and is a weapon which destroys all terrible diseases of the body. With daily practice it arouses the kundalini and stops wastage of the moon in men.

Some noteworthy points on ardha-matsyendrāsana

Internal Links: Dharma (conditioning), Stress and Situational Awareness, Prana, Asana sequence, Asana schedule, Asana Focus or gazing, PranayamaHatha Yoga Pradeepika

External Links: Prana, Chakra, Pancha Tattva, Pancha Prana, Pancha Kosha, Nadi,

  • This āsana is considered to be one of the 32 most important āsanas by all ancient texts.
  • Importantly, the spine consists of 3 major areas; the cervical region or neck, thoracic/ dorsal or upper back and lumbar/ lower back put together by a total of 24 bones, called vertebrae. Here, discs of cartilage separate these vertebrae, absorbing shock and allowing the spine to flex and bend. Additionally, the spine carries the spinal chord, a critical component of the central nervous system. Therefore, to stay healthy, the spine need to be exercised in the forward, backward, sideways directions and twisted as shown above. The practice of ardha-matsyendrāsana helps in keeping the spine healthy.
  • Lastly, the extreme twisting of torso also results in the stretching and pushing of the stomach and intestines. As a result, there is increased blood flow to the abdominal organs, which improves their health. Also, the stretching and pulling increases peristalsis and forces gas out of the body. Therefore, after performing this āsana, don’t be surprised if there is a bout of gas, flatulence and burping. This is just the release of air which is trapped in the digestive system being forced out by the āsana.
Arda Masyendrasana - stage 1

Arda Masyendrasana – stage 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *