Ardha means half. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Matsyendra is mentioned, as one of the founders of Hatha Vidya. It is related that once Lord Siva went to a lonely island and explained to his consort Parvati the mysteries of Yoga. A fish near the shore heard everything with concentration and remained motionless while listening. Siva, realising that the fish had learnt Yoga, sprinkled water upon it, and immediately the fish gained divine form and became Matsyendra (Lord of the Fishes) and thereafter spread the knowledge of Yoga. Paripurna Matsyendrasana, where the spine is given the maximum lateral twist, is dedicated to Matsyendra. Ardha Matsyendrasana is a milder version of that asana.
- Sit on the floor, with the legs stretched straight in front.
- Bend the left knee and join the thigh and calf; raise the seat from the floor, place the left foot under the buttocks and sit on the left foot so that the left heel rests under the left buttock. The foot used as the seat should be kept horizontal on the floor, the outer side of the ankle and the little toe of the foot resting on the ground. If the foot is not so placed, it will be impossible to sit on it. Balance securely in this position.
- Then bend the right knee and lifting the right leg from the floor, place it by the outer side of the left thigh so that the outer side of the right ankle touches the outer side of the left thigh on the floor. Balance in this position, keeping the right shin perpendicular to the floor.
- Turn the trunk 90 degrees to the right until the left armpit touches the outer side of the right thigh. Bring the armpit over the right knee. Exhale, stretch the left arm from the shoulder and twist it round the right knee. Bend the left elbow and move the left wrist to the back of the waist.
- The left arm should lock the bent right knee tightly and there should be no space between the left armpit and the bent right knee. To achieve this, exhale and move the trunk forward. Stay in this position and take 2 breaths.
- Now exhale deeply and swing back the right arm from the shoulder, bend the right elbow, move the right hand behind the waist and either clasp it with the left hand or vice versa. At first you will be able to catch a finger or two. With practice it will be possible to catch the palms and then the wrists behind the back.
- The neck may be turned to the left and the gaze directed over the left shoulder, or to the right, and the gaze fixed at the centre of the eyebrows. The spinal twist will be greater if the neck is turned to the left than when to the right.
- As the diaphragm is squeezed by the spinal twist, the breathing will at first become short and fast. Do not be nervous. After some practice the pose can be held from half a minute to a minute with normal breathing.
- Release the hands, remove the right foot from the floor and straighten the right and then the left leg.
- Repeat the pose on the other side and hold it for the same length of time. Here, bend the right leg and sit on the right foot so that the right heel is under the right buttock. Place the left leg over the right leg and rest the left foot on the floor so that the outer side of the left ankle touches the outer side of the right thigh on the floor. Turn the trunk 90 degrees to the left, placing the right armpit over the left knee and twist the right arm round the left knee. Flex the right elbow and move the right hand behind the waist. Hold the pose and take 2 breaths. Again exhale completely and swing the left arm back from the shoulder, bend the left elbow and clasp the hands behind the back at the wrist. Then release and relax.
- In the beginning it may not be possible to twist either arm round the opposite knee. In that case try and hold the opposite foot, keeping the arm straight at the elbow. It also takes time to clasp the hands behind the back. Gradually, the backward stretch of the arms will increase, and one will be able to catch at first the fingers, next the palms, then the wrist and as the pose is mastered even the forearms above the wrists. Beginners who find it difficult to sit on the foot can sit on the floor.
Effects of Ardha Matsyendrasana 1
By the practice of Ardha Matsyendrasana 1, one derives the benefits mentioned under Marichyasana 3. But here as the range of movement is more intensified, the effects will also be greater. In Marichyasana 3 the upper part of the abdomen is squeezed. Here the lower part of the abdomen has the benefit of the exercise. The prostate and bladder are not enlarged if one practices regularly.