Ardhmatsyendra Asana, Half Spinal Twist Pose to Detox

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

Matsya is the Sanskrit word for fish,

Indra stands for the King:

together it stands for the

king of the fish, pose.

Adding Ardh or Half to the term makes

it Half king of the fish pose.

This is how the name Ardhmatsyendra asana is derived.

Matsyendra, is in fact, a renowned yogi of the Nath cult.

Legend has it that Matsyendra, the king of fish had to get in this posture which provided for extreme steadiness as was required he being hidden in water while he was listening to Lord Shiva, discoursing on Yoga to his wife Parvati on an island. When Lord Shiva discovered this, out of mercy he turned the fish into a Yogi by sprinkling water on it.

That’s how they say he learned Yoga. As this is half spinal twist posture, there has to be a complete spinal twist or Purna Matsyendra Asana as well, which in fact requires a higher level of flexibility. The practitioner of this seemingly simple spinal twist can experience a deeply intense and powerful churning of the spine, steadiness of the Mind in case the proper alignments for the same are adhered to.

The lateral stretch imparted by Ardhmatsyendra asana, if interspersed between the forward and backward bends,  helps with restoring the alignment of the spine, in case the intensity of these bends have left it overstretched in a certain way. One must properly understand the concept of Yoga asana and religiously follow the tenets for doing asanas laid down by our gurus in the past.

Preparatory Postures for Ardhmatsyendra Asana

  • Veerasana
  • Badhakonasana
  • Janu Shirshasana
  • Supt padangushtasana
  • Bhardwaj asana

How to do Ardhmatsyendra Asana

Ardhmatsyendra asana
  1. For doing Ardhmatsyendra asana sit on the mat with both the legs stretched in front of you, heels and toes touching each other, place your palms beside your hips and lift your pelvis up by pressing the palms in the mat, tilt your pelvis forward and place the hips back on the mat
  2. Hold the left foot with the left hand, exhaling fold  the left knee and slide the left foot under the right thigh till it settles outside side of the leg touching the mat close to the right hip
  3. Fold the right knee  and pass the right foot over the left leg, which is already bent, and place the right foot beyond the left thigh nearest possible to the hip, the right knee should be pointing  straight upwards
  4. Raise the left arm up, stretching it completely upwards so that the spine is stretched high as much possible, exhale and twist toward the right placing the right hand on the floor and sliding it further  toward the back while exhaling, the stretch in the spine created earlier must be maintained throughout this movement while getting into Ardhmatsyendra Asana
  5. As the left hand comes in line with the right knee lock your left elbow on the outside of the right knee and twist further towards the left exhaling, the right hand is moved further around the back intensifying the twist, inhale and stretch the spine upwards, exhale and twist more to the left
  6. Make sure both the hips are firmly touching the mat, in case any  gets lifted  while twisting, press it down by lengthening the tailbone into the mat maintaining the stretch in the spine, the upper back slightly arched back, pulling the sternum up as you lift the spine
  7. Simultaneously slide the left hand on the outside of the right shin, elbow locked at the knee and reach out for the toes and hold it from the outside, now pull on the ankle  and further intensify the twist in the abdominal region till the shoulders are in line with the bent right leg, look  at a point straight behind, in line with your twisted shoulders, chin aligned with the shoulder line
  8. Once again check for any uplifted hips, press them down on the mat while adjusting the pull on the ankle of the right leg, breathe normal while you hold this final position or suspend the breath in case of the dynamic version of the pose is being attempted, release ardhmatsyendra asana  while inhaling and repeat same way on the other side.

Video on Ardhmatsyendrasana

Breathing Pattern & Duration – Ardhmatsyendra Asana

 In case of dynamic variation ( Breath coordinated rhythmically with every movement )

  • Inhale while lifting the left arm
  • Exhale 3 seconds while twisting laterally towards the right
  • Suspend the breath for 6 seconds while you stay in the final position
  • Return to the starting position by exhaling for 3 seconds

 One set equals both the sides done once each. To start with do a minimum of 2 sets  of Ardhmatsyendra asana

In case of Static variation 

 Stay in the final posture as long as possible and gradually increase it to a maximum of 1 – 2  minutes, or 30 breaths while breathing rhythmically through the nose

Follow up Poses for Ardhmatsyendra Asana 

  • Paschimottanasana
  • Janushirshasana

Alignment Essentials and Modifications – Ardhmatsyendrasana

  • Try to draw the raised knee towards the chest, this will help with further intensifying the twist
  • Look over the shoulder instead of at the shoulder to intensify the twist in Ardhmatsyendra Asana
  • The head can take either of the two positions: follow the direction of the twist till the chin is in line with the outer shoulder, eyes looking over the shoulder; turn the head in the opposite direction of the twist by looking over the left shoulder
  • Avoid placing the palm which is at the back too far from the hips as this will tilt the torso backward,  keep it the closest possible to the back, one can even wrap it around the waist from the behind, the beginners may tend to lose balance with this modification in case the hips and not flexible enough
  • Beginners  to Ardhmatsyendra asana can sit on a folded blanket for additional support and cushioning
  •  Beginners can practice the twist by straightening the bent leg ( left leg) out  instead of folding it  close to the opposite hip, sit  with the length of the legs parallel to a wall, the hip of the leg of which the knee is raised up ( right hip) is towards the wall or a grill if possible.
  • Hold the grill with both the hands or place the palms on the wall, walking the hands on the wall  in the direction opposite to the stretch of the lower leg ( Left leg), keep the torso straight throughout by continuously adjusting the legs and the hips as per the flexibility levels, this will help experience the intensity of the twist where the hips are not flexible enough.

Common Faults – Ardhmatsyendra Asana

  • Hips remain lifted off the floor
  • The torso tilts backward
  • One shoulder is lower
  • The left hand is not gripping the ankle or the toes of the right leg
  • The knee of the left leg is lifted above the floor
  • The chin is pointed too high, not parallel to the floor

Contraindications – When not to do Half Spinal Twist Pose 

  • Women past three months of pregnancy should avoid doing Ardhmatsyendra asana
  • Spinal Inflammation
  • In case of back or spine injury, peptic ulcers, hyperthyroidism – practice Ardhmatsyendra asana under the guidance of an experienced yoga trainer

Advantages- Benefits of doing Half Spinal Twist Pose


  • Reduces depression and lethargy, dullness and disorders of the nervous system
  • Calms down the Mind as the adrenal glands  are toned up


  • The half spinal twist balances the Manipura Chakra ( Navel Chakra)
  • Physical:
  • Ardhmatsyendra asana if practiced consistently  the elasticity of the spine is improved, the ligaments attached to spine receive increased blood supply, it is the right choice for being included in the Yoga for a healthy spine
  • It helps remove lumbago ( lower back pain), muscular rheumatism of the back and hips, the joints stiffness due to rheumatoidism is released, increases the production of synovial fluid in the joints  making them more active, it proves to be the most effective from among all the yoga processes for lower back pain
  • The nerve roots of the sympathetic nervous system are toned and supplied with increased blood flow, stimulates the large intestine and massages the abdominal muscles, releasing constipation, dyspepsia and other digestive issues
  • Spikes the release of digestive juices increasing the appetite, very potent as a part of yoga for a healthy appetite, and overall digestion as it also squeezes out the toxins from the abdominal organs
  • Benefits the gallbladder, liver, spleen, kidneys, and intestines
  • Tones up the respiratory muscles and muscles of the neck helping with improving the quality of respiration
  • benefits the Practicing Ardhmatsyendra  Asana  regularly urogenital, Menstrual problems and fertility related issues, its inclusion in the yoga for enhanced fertility is nondebatable 
  • Patients with diabetes, sciatica, and hyperthyroidism are positively impacted
  • It prevents the formation of osteophytes in the adjoining vertebrae and benefits mild cases of slip disc
  • It also benefits conditions like colitis, bronchitis, and sinusitis, its a must include in the yoga for managing colitis
  • The joints of the pelvic region are improved, increases the venous circulation in the abdominal area,
  • If placed  at the end of the yoga class it helps release the spine of any undue stress caused by the forward or backbends as it loosens up any articulations of the spine and returns it in its normal form.