The Yoga Tutor

Ardha Matsyendrasana

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 497 ]

In the Sanskrit language matsyendra means "the Lord of the fishes." Matsyendra is the name of a very famous yogi from history, one of the 84 mahasiddhis, which means "one who has achieved great paranormal and psychic power," and co-founder of the hatha vidya (the science of hatha yoga). This pose is given his name because Matsyendra was known to commonly sit in this position.

The full pose is a very difficult one and reserved for advanced yoga adepts. However, since the health benefits of this pose are so extensive, the great Matsyendra devised an easier variation that can be performed by most everyone, with the proper preparations. This is called ardha matsyendra asana (ardha meaning "half").

This pose is also very important in hatha yoga for its twisting/torsion effect upon the spine, making it is a central practice for spinal health and the overall health of the entire being.


  • Fortunately it is easier to perform this asana than it is to describe it.
  • Bend the left leg so that the knee touches the ground and the heel presses up against the side of right buttocks.
  • Bring the right foot overtop of the left knee, placing the sole flat on the floor up against the left knee.
  • Keeping the spine vertical, twist the entire trunk toward the right until your left armpit crosses on top of the right knee.
  • Stretch the left arm downward to grasp the right ankle.
  • Turn the spine (and the head) as far as possible around to the right.
  • Draw the right arm behind and place the palm upon the floor, using it for gentle support and balance.
Note: Sit tall and straight with the spine, and do not lean back upon your right arm. The eyes, even though closed, should also look far to the right.

Note: Move into this position slowly and gradually.
  • Breathe uniformly and try to hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds in the beginning, gradually working up to 2–3 minutes with practice.
  • Slowly come out of the posture in the reverse manner and repeat, in mirror fashion, on the other side.

Effects and Benefits

The benefits of this asana are extensive. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1.27) states:
"Matsyendrasana stimulates the gastric fire, destroys the terrible diseases, awakens kundalini shakti, and stabilises the lunar power in the palate."

Physically, this pose stretches all the muscles and ligaments of the spine. This helps tone and rejuvenate the spine, and can help improve defects and abnormal curvatures. It also can help prevent spinal arthritis. It relieves back pain, hip stiffness and even certain forms of sciatica.

Esoterically, ardha matsyendra asana unifies the subtle breaths, prana and apana, in the sushumna nadi and brings about a state of deep contemplation...



The contents of this web page are intended for informational purposes only. One should not engage in any yoga practices based solely upon the directions given on this web page or any other page of this web site. Anyone atempting to perform any of the yoga exercises introduced on this website assumes full responsibility and does so at their own risk.

NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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