Instructor: Sarah N.
Sarah has completed an intensive yoga teacher training program in Pune, India at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute. She has been inspired to continue practicing yoga for life.

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

Release tension in your lower spine and spark up your digestion with Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, also known as Ardha Matsyendrasana.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits Partnering

Ardha Matsyendrasana

(Pronounced as "are-dah mahts-yen-DRAHS-anna")

Ardha in Sanskrit means "half," and Matsyendra is literally "Lord of the fishes." Here it refers to one of the original yoga teachers from the ancient "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" text, who was presumably as flexible as a fish.

How to do Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Step One

Sit on your yoga mat and stretch your legs out straight in front of you. Bend your right leg and pull your right ankle close to your buttocks. Lean onto your right hip so that you can lift both of your sitting bones off of the floor. Grab your right ankle with the left hand and pull the right foot underneath your buttocks. Extend through your right heel so that your right foot forms a 90-degree angle with your right shin. The outside edge of your right foot, ankle and pinky toe should press into the mat.

Now shift your weight back so that you sit with your right sitting bone resting on your right heel. Your left sitting bone should not rest on your right foot but rather just in front of your right foot, making light contact with the top of your right foot. This position makes the left buttocks free to descend lower toward the floor, keeping your pelvis from tilting out of alignment.

If you cannot sit on your foot due to an old injury or knee troubles, then skip down to the section below titled "Modifications and Props" or "Beginners Tips" to see alternative sitting positions for this pose.

Step Two

Bend the left knee and pull it toward you. Lift up your left foot and place it next to the outside of the right thigh so that your left shin is perpendicular to the floor. Now sit up straight and rotate your torso to the left. Twist until you can place your right upper arm in front of the outside of your left knee. The back of your right armpit should press into your left knee.

Step Three

Take a deep breath. Now when you exhale, stretch your right arm out away from the shoulder and wrap it back around the left knee. As you now bend your right elbow, your right wrist can press into the back of your waist. There should be no gap between your armpit and your knee.

Step Four

Take another breath. As you exhale, lift your chest up and then swing your left arm behind your back and grab your left wrist with your right hand. If you can only grab one finger, then do that and hold your position. If you cannot grab any part of your hand, then hold a yoga belt behind you and grab the belt between your hands, holding it behind your back. You can gradually inch your fingers closer to each other using your grip on the belt.

Step Five

Lift up your spine from your tailbone to your sternum, expanding your chest. Then turn your head to the left, gazing up over your left shoulder. Each time you inhale, lift your sternum up a tiny bit more. Every time you exhale, twist your torso one inch more.

Hold the posture for 30 seconds or longer according to your capacity. Release your arms and untwist on an exhalation. Then repeat these steps on the opposite side, holding the pose for the same amount of time.

Beginner's Tip:

To protect your knees and ankles -- or if you are trying this pose for the first time and find it very difficult -- then perform this easier, gentler variation that stretches the same muscle groups. This posture is very similar to Marichyasana III, Sage Marichi's Twist Pose.

Rather than sitting on your foot, simply keep one leg straight out in front of you. When the instructions say to bend one knee and cross your foot over your leg, just bend your knee and pull your foot as close to your buttocks as possible without crossing your foot over your leg. Sit on a folded blanket if it is hard for you to keep your back straight and chest lifted. Then perform the rest of the pose as mentioned above, wrapping your arm around your knee as much as you can while twisting.

Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Ardha Matsyendrasana

Pose Level:

Level 1

Contraindications and Cautions:

  • If you have a back or spine injury: Only practice this pose with the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher.
  • If you have recent knee, ankle or foot injuries: Only practice the version listed under "Beginner's Tip" below.
  • For pregnancy: Consult an expert yoga teacher in person before attempting this pose as a precaution.

Modifications and Props:

For those who feel discomfort when trying to sit on the foot or who cannot keep their backs straight as they twist, use a folded yoga blanket. Sit on the blanket in such a way that the blanket supports your sitting bones and most of your thighs. For most people, it is enough to sit between 2-3 inches above the floor on your blankets, but you can add a little more height if you need to. Bend your leg as mentioned in step one, placing the foot so that you still sit on it, but the blankets under you relieve excess pressure on the foot and ankle. Continue with the rest of the steps as normal.

Deepen the Pose:

When you first learn this posture, it is easier to turn your head in the same direction that the rest of your body is twisting. As you become more comfortable with the pose, practice doing everything the same except now, turn your head in the opposite direction to look back over your bent knee instead. Keep lifting your sternum and tucking in your shoulder blades as you intensify the twist this way.


  • Improves the health of the reproductive organs and bladder
  • Promotes circulation to the liver, kidneys and all abdominal organs
  • Releases tension in the shoulders, hips, lower back, hamstrings and neck
  • Boosts digestion
  • Eases menstrual discomfort and sciatica


The ultimate challenge in the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is the final variation in which you twist your arms even further around, grabbing the big toe in front of you on the floor. Ask a partner to help you twist deeper. Go into the full pose, holding your wrist behind your back.

Have your partner sit in front of you on the floor so that your knee points at them. Your partner should grab the wrist of the arm that you have wrapped straight around your back -- not the wrist of the arm you have wrapped around your knee. As you continue twisting deeper, they should pull your wrist directly toward them to help you twist while keeping your back straight. Your other arm that you have wrapped around your knee can now reach forward, crossing over your front knee to grab your big toe on the floor in front of you. They should give gentle support without forcing you to strain as you twist.

Next Pose:

Triangle Pose

9 styles | 152 poses

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