Ardha Matsyendrasana ? Half Spinal Twist


About Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ardha Matsyendrasana or Half Spinal Twist, also called Lord of the Fishes Pose is part of the twelve basic or preliminary hatha yoga postures. The entire length of the spine twists in both directions in this asana.

Benefits of Ardha Matsyendrasana
This pose primarily affects the adrenal glands. It affects the dorso-lumbar and lumbar regions of the spine also. While in this pose, a healthy massage is given to the internal organs, especially the kidneys. The kidneys are an important organ for regulating the body?s fluid volume, which in turn regulates the blood volume and blood pressure in our arteries. The kidneys excrete and reabsorb water and inorganic electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, sulfate, phosphate and hydrogen. These inorganic substances must be regulated in our bodies for optimum health. This asana also increases flexibility in the spine, stretches the hips, shoulders and back, and helps to realign the spine. It massages the abdominal organs, relives constipation and many other digestive ailments, brings blood flow to the spinal muscles and nerves and increases circulation throughout the entire body. It increases kundalini shakti (life force), and cures nervous system disorders. Finally, it helps to calm the mind, changing the brain wave patterns.

How to perform Ardha Matsyendrasana
? From child?s pose (balasana), slowly roll your body up with a rocking chair action, bringing your head up to rest on top of the shoulders. At this point you will be sitting on your heels.
? Drop your hips to the right of your feet so your sit bones are on the floor. You should not be sitting on the heels, but the bottom should be just to the side of the feet.
? Bring the left leg over the right so that the foot is on the right side of the right leg with the foot as close in to the body as is comfortable. The closer the left foot is to the body, the more challenging this posture is. For people with very inflexible hips, the half spinal twist can be done with the right leg completely straight, instead of bent close to the sitting bones. Be sure to always repeat the same leg position on both sides of the body when switching out to practice on the opposite side.
? Make sure that both sit bones are on the mat. (These are the small bones in front of the tail bone, the pair instead of the singular bon that you feel when you sit flat on the floor.) If necessary move the right ankle away from the hips until you can feel both sit bones squarely on the surface of the mat.
? Bring your left hand behind you and rest it on the floor.
? Inhale and lift your right arm straight up over your head, stretching the spine upwards. The longer you are able to make your spine here, the easier it will be to twist in the next step.
? Exhale and turn the body to the left bringing the right arm outside the left knee. The knee is used for leverage here, but if that makes the posture to intense, you can simply wrap the arm around the front of the knee instead to modify the pose. This should decrease the intensity of the twisting action in the spine. Take your gaze over the left shoulder.
? Keep your spine straight and be sure to keep the weight of the body mainly on the sitting bones, and lifting up through the spine, and not on the left arm. More advanced students can actually lift the left arm from the floor, wrapping it around the back. Really advanced students can reach around and find the opposite foot.
? In the beginning it is not necessary to be able to hold onto your left ankle with your right hand. It is okay to leave your right arm straight from the knee, always working to move it closer in to the left ankle. You can also use your right hand to pull against your knee or calf of the opposite leg. You can also lift the right hand up to hold a mudra instead.
? Make sure the shoulders stay parallel to the floor. With every exhale, conscious attention should be given to dropping the shoulders away from the ears, and lengthening the neck muscles.
? Try to make this an active posture, twisting the body a little bit more to the left on every exhale, and also a relaxing posture. In most of hatha yoga there are opposing forces in every movement, so as you rise through the spine from the sit bones the shoulders are melting down.
? Be sure not to hold extra tension in the hips, shoulders and face, relaxing into the posture as much as possible to arrive in an appropriate twist for you. You should not feel pain in the posture, just intensity. Ideally, you will feel an equal stretch in every vertebrae of the spine, as well as through the hips.
? Hold this posture for 30 seconds to begin with, working up to 2 minutes or more, breathing deep yogic breaths (belly expanding on the inhale and contracting on the exhale).
? To release the posture inhale and lift the right arm over your head, stretch up, and exhale to release the hand back down to the mat.
? Repeat this series of movements on the other side of the body.

Modifications for Ardha Matsyendrasana
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Variations of Ardha Matsyendrasana
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Contraindications of Ardha Matsyendrasana
Counterindications: Ardha Matsyendrasana is contraindicated for those who suffer from back pain, including slipped, and herniated disc but it can relieve sciatica, an tension in the shoulders and neck. Pregnant women should not practice this, nor any other twists, after the first three months of pregnancy, as the asana can overly stretch the rectus abdominus and transverses abdominus muscles. These muscles are already stretched to their capacity just with the a growing belly. Also, due to the stimulating effect of this asana it is not recommended for suffers of hyperthyroidism. As the abdomen is compressed it is also contraindicated for people with hernia or peptic ulcers and during menstruation (although women can decide how they feel during this time, as the asana can actually help the body to release menses more quickly).

Pictures of Ardha Matsyendrasana
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