Updated: Jul 11, 2020
By Allison Ray Jeraci
Photo by Andrea Killam
Ardha matsyendrasana, or half lord of the fishes, is an intricate pose that combines elements of twisting and hip opening. According to yogic myth, the first yoga student, Matsya, named by the first yoga teacher, Shiva, came back to Earth, reincarnated as both sage and teacher, and was embodied as half human, half fish. The movement of the torso in ardha matsyendrasana resembles the human half of Matsya, while the legs are folded to resemble his fish tail.
Different versions of ardha matsyendrasana accentuate different features of the pose, which can be tremendously helpful when it comes to creating a sequence. Understanding these differences will lead to understanding which version of the pose will be best for the sequence you’re building. Below are versions for stretching the outer hips, connecting the upper and lower body to prepare for twisted arm balances, and twisting the entire body while working toward a bind. Practice each so that you can embody the differences. As with any asymmetrical poses, make sure to do these variations on both sides.