I Don’t Like Fish, But I Like This
Posted by terrepruitt on October 30, 2014
I love twists. The folding, bending, twisting poses in yoga. Right now I’m thinking about Ardha Matsyendrasas or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose. This is the one where one leg is folded or bent and the other leg is over it and you’re twisted. Twists can be challenging, but you can often find a level of execution that you can relax into. And as with all poses the more you practice it well, the more you can twist as you gain flexibility. Some twists – depending on the supporting factor – can be good to practice strength and stability. Twists are good for flexibility and digestion.
I prefer to start this pose sitting on one hip (I’ll use the left hip in the example) with my feet to the (right) side. Using the clock as we do in Nia, sit in the middle of the clock, with the left knee at 12 O’clock. Reach with the crown of your head to the sky. Lengthen the neck – create space between the ears and the shoulders. Open the chest. Draw the shoulders back and down. Let those shoulder blades slide down the back. Lift the ribs off of the hips. Gently bring the right knee up and the right foot over the left knee to rest with whole foot on the floor at about 11 O’clock. Use your left hand to gently hold the right knee as you twist your torso to the right. Keeping the posture that you set up before you brought your right leg over the left (lengthened spine) allow your right hand gently press into the earth behind you . . . a few inches from your right buttock. Both hips remain on the floor. With your posture intact relax into it for a few breaths, then untwist, and bring your feet back to the right side. Then switch your feet to the other side and proceed on this side.
That was the gentle version. Stay with this until you are comfortable and confident that you can retain the long straight posture through your entire back and neck before you add the rest of the pose. The additions could be using the crook of your elbow to hold your knee more snuggly up to your rotated torso. The supporting hand would land on the floor more towards the center of your back as you increase the depth of the twist. As you twist further you might find your right foot past the 11 O’clock position, straying towards 10 O’clock. Find your comfortable place, keeping the whole foot on the ground.
A deeper twist would be to place the left elbow (keeping with the original example) on the outside of your right knee. Your left hand could even rest on the left knee. With this the supporting hand would land on the floor perhaps just a smidge more towards the center of your back as you increase the depth of the twist or not. This is a different type of intensity but it might not take your supporting hand that much further back.
There is even a further step where you can thread your left arm (keeping with the original example) through your right leg under the knee and the right arm behind your back so they can link up.
There is also a way to decrease the intensity and that would be to straighten the left (keeping with the original example) leg. It would remain active. As in you would gently press it straight out and down. Hip, knee, ankle and toes in alignment, with knee and toes to the sky. The straight leg version can be used with any of the aforementioned “holds” (hand holding knee, crook of elbow, elbow on other side of knee).
This twist really helps with flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles. I think of it as one of those “pretzel-y” yoga poses. I have experienced that it is best demonstrated with my back toward my students so they can bend, twist, turn, and hold the exact same sides.
Do you know this pose? Do you practice this pose? Do you like this pose? How do you feel after you do this pose?