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Twist Yoga Poses

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Also called Seated Twist Pose or Ardha Matsyendrasana in Sanskrit, this pose energizes the spine and stimulate proper digestion while improving postural and body awareness.

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Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose/Seated Twist Pose) is a deep, restorative twist that is both strengthening and rejuvenating. Your entire torso twists in the pose, which improves circulation, helps with digestion,  and improves spinal mobility.

“I look forward to doing Ardha Matsyendrasana toward the end of my practice,” says Yoga Journal contributing editor Gina Tomaine. “It allows me to feel like my whole body is being wrung out, after I’ve been energized and warmed up from previous poses. When I was younger—before I even knew what yoga was—I used to practice this pose after running all over the field during soccer practice. It’s one that’s been an asset to me all my life.”

Half Lord of the Fishes basics

Sanskrit: Ardha Matsyendrasana (ARD-ah Mats-yun-DRAHS-uh-nah)

Pose type: Twist

Targets: Core

Why we love it: “This pose always offers me a new perspective during my class. I spend so much time during yoga classes focused on the front of the room…thinking about my legs, my arms and my breath. This pose asks me to engage with my core—and the back of the room—offering me a new perspective. When I turn my gaze toward the back of the room, I often think about turning my attention away from any stress or anxieties I’m holding onto. This pose always gives me the reset I need.” —Yoga Journal staff writer Ellen O’Brien

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Pose benefits

Half Lord of the Fishes is good for stretching your outer hips and thighs, opening your shoulders and chest, building strength in your upper back, lengthening your spine, and stretching the front of your thighs. It can also help stimulate digestion.

Half Lord of the Fishes: Step-by-step instructions

Man demonstrates Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
  1. Begin seated in Sukhasana. Cross your right knee on top or your left, bringing your feet alongside your hips.
  2. Lift your right knee up to place the soul of your right foot on the mat outside of your left knee.
  3. Place your right hand to the floor outside of your right hip for support. Make sure you are sitting evening on both sitting bones.
  4. Inhale and raise your left hand to the ceiling. Exhale and bring your left elbow down to the outside of your right knee. Press your knee and elbow together to create some resistance.
  5. Turn your head to the right, looking past your right shoulder. Make sure you don’t strain your neck.
  6. Breath as you hold the pose, lengthening on each inhale and gently twisting a bit more with each exhale.
  7. To exit the pose, inhale to reach the right arm up and unwind the body.  Exhale to release back to center. Repeat on the other side.

Teaching Half Lord of the Fishes

These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • With every inhalation, lift a little more through the sternum, pushing the fingers against the floor to help. Twist a little more with every exhalation.
  • Before you attempt any twisting pose, warm up properly. Prepare with some gentle asanas that bring blood into the muscles that flex and extend the spine, such as Cat-Cow.
  • Distribute the twist evenly throughout the entire length of your spine; don’t concentrate it in the lower back.

Variation: Gentle Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Instead of bringing your elbow to your thigh, try simply wrapping your hand or arm comfortably around your knee.

Preparatory poses

Bharadvajasana I (Bharadvaja’s Twist)

Marichyasana III (Pose dedicated to the Sage Marichi III/Sage’s Pose)

Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)

Counter poses

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Savasana (Corpse Pose)