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Ardha Matsyendrasana (Spinal Twist) with video

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Ardha-Matsyendrasana (spinal Twist)

(Ardha-Matsyendrasana – अर्धमत्स्येन्द्रासन)

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is a very commonly practiced seated spinal twisting pose. The word is a composite two Sanskrit words – ardha, meaning "half" and Matsyendra. The literal meaning of Matsyendra is "lord of fish". However, this pose is named after the great yogi, Matsyendranath, who according to some texts is considered one of the prominent forefathers of modern yoga practices. The pose allows the spine to be twisted all the way from the base of the spine to the very top.
I invite you to watch the video and follow along for the practice.

Step-by-step

  1. Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out straight ahead. Keep the spine upright, shoulders relaxed.
  2. Fold the right knee and put the right foot on the outside of the left knee. Try to keep the foot flat on the floor and the knee vertical.
  3. Raise the left arm and place the elbow on the outside of the right knee. Try to push the knee inward with the left elbow and with the left hand try to hold the left knee. When you push the knee, allow the thigh to put a gentle pressure against the abdomen.
  4. Raise the right arm, twist the body around, and place the right hand on the floor behind the spine making sure that the spine stays tall, vertical and relaxed.
  5. Make a gentle effort to roll the right shoulder back and away from you. Look over the right shoulder, providing a gentle stretch for the neck as well, without straining the neck. Try not to twist the spine more than its natural flexibility will allow. Over time, with practice, the muscles will become suppler and provide a greater degree of flexibility.
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    Ardha-Matsyendrasana (spinal Twist)

  7. Breathe your natural, regular breaths and keep the awareness on the entire length of the spine.
  8. You may close the eyes and visualize the spine being twisted from top to bottom and giving a nice massage to the vertebras and the disks in the spine.
  9. Hold the position for about 40 seconds, if comfortable.
  10. Release the pose gently and repeat on the other side.
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    Ardha-Matsyendrasana (spinal Twist)

Variations

  1. While you are pushing with the elbow from outside the knee, instead of trying to hold the other knee, you may lift the forearm to a vertical position with the fingers pointing up.
  2. If you are not able to put enough pressure on the raised knee with the straight elbow from outside (due to lack of flexibility or some discomfort otherwise), you may fold the elbow around the knee and pull the knee and the thigh toward your chest and the abdomen.
  3. You may try to fold the knee that is straight so that the heel of the foot comes close to the opposite thigh.
  4. An option for the more advanced practitioners is to fold the elbow from above the raised knee and bring the hand out from under the thigh. Now fold the other elbow behind the back and hold the two hands together.

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Ardha-Matsyendrasana (spinal Twist)

Benefits

  • The Half Spinal Twist is one of the best yoga postures for cultivating flexibility and strength in the spine as the back muscles are contracted on one side and simultaneously stretched on the other side.
  • It sooths stiff necks and upper and lower back tension caused by stress, poor posture, or prolonged periods of sitting in one position
  • As the entire nervous system goes through the spine, a healthy spine also means a healthy nervous system which ensures healthy communications between the brain and every cell of the body
  • The alternating compression and release of the abdominal region flushes this area with blood and massages the internal organs, improving digestion
  • Stimulates the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Because of the massage provided to the pancreas, this is highly recommended as a therapeutic pose for control and prevention of diabetes
  • Muscles of the stomach and hips are also toned from repeated practice of the Half Spinal Twist
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort, fatigue, sciatica, and backache

 

Contraindications

  • People who suffer from peptic ulcers, hernia, hyperthyroidism should avoid this pose unless under expert guidance from a trained teacher.
  • Women past the first trimester of pregnancy should not practice this pose unless they have an established ongoing yoga practice and are under the guidance of a prenatal teacher.
  • Those with sciatica, slipped disk or other back ailments should exercise caution while practicing this pose as a therapeutic aid.

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