Yoga poses that twist the torso are popular because they benefit the body and mind in many ways! They stretch out the spine and shoulders; reduce fatigue and increase energy; and help the body's digestive organs squeeze out toxins. This seated twist, Bound Half Lord of the Fishes, is a deeper variation on the popular seated twist, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana).
Named after an ancient yoga master, Matsyendra, the Sanskrit name for this pose, "Baddha Ardha Matsyendrasana" (ARD-uh MAHT-see-ehn-DRAHS-uh-nuh), comes from five words:
- "Baddha" — meaning "bound"
- "Ardha" — meaning "half"
- "Matsya" — meaning "fish"
- "Indra" — meaning "ruler"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
The "bind" refers to the way your hands clasp together behind your back. Keep reading to learn more about this pose!
Benefits of Bound Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
During the practice of asanas, it is the body alone that should be active while the brain should remain passive, watchful, and alert.
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This pose stretches the spine, shoulders, hips, and neck. It helps to relieve shoulder pain, backaches, and sciatica, while improving flexibility in the hips. This pose also stimulates and tones the abdominal organs responsible for digestion and elimination, including the intestines, liver, and spleen. Additionally, this pose helps relieve stress by simultaneously calming the nervous system and increasing energy.
Avoid practicing this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to your knees, hips, or spine. Those with back pain, back injuries, or degenerative disk disease should approach this pose with caution and should only attempt to practice it under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms resting at your sides. This is Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana).
- Bend both knees, placing the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Then drop your left knee to the floor. Tuck your left foot under your right leg, resting it alongside your right buttock.
- On an inhalation, raise your left arm overhead. Exhaling, twist to the right so your torso sits against the inside of your right thigh. Place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Lower your left forearm and hold onto your left knee. Reach behind your body with your right hand and rest it on the floor behind you. This is Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana).
- Stronger students may adjust their position to sit on the left foot, balancing the left buttock on the left heel. If that is too difficult, remain sitting on the floor with the feet in their current position.
- On an inhalation, lengthen your spine toward the ceiling. Exhaling, spiral your torso around your spine, from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
- Bend your left elbow and thread your left arm beneath your right knee. Then bring your left hand toward your right hip. You may need to drop your shoulder and lean forward slightly to reach this position.
- Reach your right arm behind your body to clasp your hands together.
- More flexible students can hold onto the left wrist with the right hand.
- Turn your head to gaze far over your right shoulder.
- Soften your left shoulder, lengthen your spine, and twist deeper into the pose.
- Press your inner right foot firmly into the floor. Keep the front of your torso long. Draw your tailbone down to the floor.
- Hold for up to one minute.
- To release, exhale and unwind your torso. Come back to center and extend both legs in front of you in Staff Pose again. Repeat the bound twist for the same length of time on the opposite side.
Modifications & Variations
Baddha Ardha Matsyendrasana will help detoxify your digestive organs and reduce stress. This variation is suitable for most intermediate students, but only go as deeply into the twist as you feel comfortable. Try these simple changes to find a variation that works best for you:
- If it is too difficult to sit on your bottom heel, stay seated on the floor.
- If you cannot clasp your wrist, try holding your hands or your fingertips.
- For variety in the neck stretch, you can either turn your head in the direction of the twist, or in the opposite direction. Gaze softly at the horizon with either variation.
- More flexible students can try a variation of the bind that stretches the shoulders in a different way. This variation wraps the forearm around the outside of the knee, instead of beneath the knee:
- Perform steps 1-4 in the Instructions, above.
- Bring the left armpit over the right knee. Exhaling, bend the left elbow and reach the left arm around the front of the right knee. Bring your left wrist toward your left hip. This will be a very deep twist. Your left forearm should rest on your right shin.
- Then reach your right arm behind your body and clasp your left wrist with your right hand.
- The torso should be twisted deeply. There should be no space between your left armpit and right knee.
Baddha Ardha Matsyendrasana can be a great way to soothe your spine and bring balance to your entire body. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your neck soft. Never lead the twist with your head. Instead, allow your head to be the last part of your body to turn.
- Never rush or force the pose. Move with your breath: Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to gently rotate deeper.
- Twist to the right first. This places pressure on the ascending colon. When you twist to the left, the descending colon is pressed. Twisting from the right to the left mimics the natural flow of digestion, which will help improve detoxification. Pressing on the descending colon first may cause digestive and intestinal discomfort.
Adding twists to your daily routine can be a simple way to help your body re-gain its balance. Helping your organs squeeze out toxins will improve your digestion, and it will boost your energy, too! Regularly practicing Baddha Ardha Matsyendrasana will help you stay healthy in all areas of your life.