Yoga Poses

3 Ways to Prep for Ardha Matsyendrasana

Experience stability in your legs and mobility in your torso in these prep poses for Ardha Matsyendrasana.

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Utthita Marichyasana (Extended Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi, variation)

Standing chair twist
Zev Starr-Tambor

BENEFITS Brings balance and stability to your legs and pliability to your hamstrings; prepares your torso for deeper twists

INSTRUCTION Place a chair against a wall. Put a block or sandbag on the floor, about 1 foot to the right of the chair legs. Stand with the right side of your body close to the wall, and face the chair. Raise your left heel on the block with your toes extending toward the chair and the ball of your foot on the floor. Bend your right leg, and place your right foot on top of the chair back (or seat). Bring your hands to your hips, press down through your feet, and draw your left thigh muscles up from your outer knees to your outer hips, drawing back your outer right thigh—this is how you learn to compact, or stabilize, your hips.

Check that your hips are level and both sides of your waist and trunk are extending upward. Take normal breaths. Appreciate how you can find more extension and freedom through the front of your hip now that your left heel is supported above the ball of your foot. Continue to lengthen through your hips and the sides of your torso. Like a climbing vine that grows upward and winds around a vertical support, extend your spine from the bottom to the top, and turn yourself from left to right. Bring your left hand to your outer right thigh and your right hand to the wall, rotating your torso farther. Spread your elbows out to the sides, move your back-left ribs inward, and rotate until your abdomen and chest are parallel to the wall. Stay in this position for 5–10 seconds, breathing normally. Exhale, release your hands, turn back to center, and lower your right leg. Move to the other side of the chair, and repeat on the other side.

See also 7 Best Yoga Props, According to 7 Top Teachers Around the Country

Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)

Pyramid Pose with arched back.
Zev Starr-Tambor

BENEFITS Stretches the sides of your trunk and hamstrings; teaches you how to extend your legs and stabilize your hips while aligning your head and tailbone

INSTRUCTION Stand in Mountain Pose. Inhale, and spread your legs about 3 feet wide. Turn your left foot inward about 60 degrees and your right foot outward 90 degrees. Continue rotating your entire left leg inward until your left hip and torso face forward. Straighten your legs. Inhale, and lift up through the sides of your torso. Exhale, and extend your torso forward until it is parallel to the floor. Place your fingertips to the sides of your right foot. Keep your arms straight and your torso and pelvis parallel to the floor. Inhale, and raise your head. Stay for 20–30 seconds, breathing normally. Inhale, and lift your trunk. Repeat on the other side. 

See also 6 Steps to Master Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Side Stretch
Zev Starr-Tambor

BENEFITS Stretches your abdominals and the sides of your torso

INSTRUCTION Kneel on the floor with your ankles and shins together. Without disturbing your hips, extend your right leg straight out to the side, in line with your right hip and your left knee. Keep your right leg straight and your kneecap lifted. Extend your left arm up alongside your left ear, and extend your right arm out to the side. With an exhalation, bend your torso to the right. Bring the back of your right hand to your right shin, and extend the left side of your body. With an inhalation, rotate the left side of your torso to the ceiling. With an exhalation, slide your right hand closer to your right ankle or toes. Stay here for 20–30 seconds. Inhale, and swing your left arm up, lifting your torso back to vertical. Repeat on the other side.

See also Gate Pose

About Our Pro
Teacher and model Lara Warren is a senior certified teacher at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York, Kula Yoga Project, and Chelsea Piers Fitness in Brooklyn. She started practicing Iyengar Yoga while living in London in her teens, and she has been going to India regularly to study with the Iyengar family since 2003. For more information on her daily classes, monthly workshops, yearly retreats, and ongoing teacher trainings, go to yogawithlara.com.