Yoga Poses

Challenge Pose: Ardha Matsyendrasana

Strengthen your lower back as you move step by step into Ardha Matsyendrasana.

PREVIOUS STEP IN YOGAPEDIA 3 Ways to Prep for Ardha Matsyendrasana
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Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Arda = Half · Matsya = Fish · Indra = Lord

Benefits 

Massages your lower abdominal organs; strengthens your lower back

Step 1

Seated Pose
Zev Starr-Tambor

Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your left leg, bringing your calf against your thigh. Lift your hips slightly off the mat, and place your
left foot under your buttocks so your foot is horizontal and your toes point to the right. (The outside edge of your left foot will be on the mat.) Sit on your left foot. (You can think of this foot as a small saucer and your buttocks as the teacup.) If balance is too precarious or if your foot hurts, place a folded blanket between your foot and seat.

Cross your right leg over your left, and place your right foot beside your left thigh so that the outside of your right ankle is close to the outside of your left thigh. Your right foot and left knee should point forward. Keep your hands by your sides with your fingertips pressing down until you feel balanced. Once you feel stable, place both hands on your right knee, and press down through your hands and right foot.

See also Restorative Poses for Adrenal Fatigue

Step 2

halflordofthefishespose
Zev Starr-Tambor

Wrap your left forearm around your right shinbone, and swing your right arm behind your back—clasping your right fingers with your left (or, if possible, your right wrist with your left hand). The tighter and more compact you make the clasp, the more lift and
freedom you will find in your torso and inner body. 

On an inhalation, lift your trunk, roll your shoulders back, and expand your chest. Turn your head to gaze over either shoulder. (Looking over your right shoulder will require a more complete spinal rotation.) To maintain balance, it’s essential to keep a strong hand grip. Hold an upward stretch through your hips and side waist, lifting and broadening your chest. Stay for 20–30 seconds. Release the clasp, slowly unwind, and repeat on the other side. 

See also Show Your Spine Some Love

Step 3

prep for half lord of the fishes pose
Zev Starr-Tambor

Exhale, and extend your left arm and shoulder forward. Your left abdomen should turn from left to right as if the lower-left corner of your abdomen were moving to the outside of your right thigh. Just as in Parivrtta Trikonasana, your torso should follow your arm like a river. Once you’ve turned your trunk as far as you’re comfortable, make your left upper arm heavy by sharply pulling your left elbow down, and close the gap between the back of your left armpit and your right thigh. Continue extending your left arm, keeping it on your outer right thigh—continue to internally rotate your arm so that your palm faces up.

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Step 4

None
Zev Starr-Tambor

Wrap your left forearm around your right shinbone, and swing your right arm behind your back—clasping your right fingers with your left (or, if possible, your right wrist with your left hand). The tighter and more compact you make the clasp, the more lift and
freedom you will find in your torso and inner body. On an inhalation, lift your trunk, roll your shoulders back, and expand your chest. Turn your head to gaze over either shoulder. (Looking over your right shoulder will require a more complete spinal rotation.) To maintain balance, it’s essential to keep a strong hand grip. Hold an upward stretch through your hips and side waist, lifting and broadening your chest. Stay for 20–30 seconds. Release the clasp, slowly unwind, and repeat on the other side.

See also Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Ardha Matsyendrasana, Variation

half lord of the fishes pose
Zev Starr-Tambor


If extending, wrapping, and binding your arms around your bent leg isn’t possible, go to a wall. Sit with your right leg outstretched and parallel to the wall. Bend your left leg, and sit on your left foot. (You can also place a blanket between your buttocks and foot.) Bend your right knee, and place your right foot at the outer edge of your left thigh. Exhale, turn your trunk to the right, and bring the left side of your trunk toward your right thigh. Fix your left upper arm against the outer edge of your right leg. Keep your elbows bent, and place your palms on the wall. Pull your hands down the wall, and lift your inner body.

See also Feel Your Way Into Half Lord of the Fishes Pose II

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.