Matsyendrasana - The Spinal Twist

Asana practice in Yoga Meditation is quite different from that of modern yoga studios. Matsyendrasana is described here for those participating in Yoga Mentoring with Radhikaji.

Matsyendrasana is named after the famous yogi and tantric master Matsyendranath. It is the finest of all spinal twists. It is excellent to energise the spinal column. Besides this it strengthens the shoulder muscles for a better posture during longer sitting sessions and it tones muscles so that one can sit longer in a meditative pose. 

Since the final pose is quite challenging, there are progressive levels that lead gradually and gently to the mastery of this pose.

Preparatory pose 1 for Matsyendrasana

Lie on the back with the legs and feet together.

Extend the arms up to shoulder level keeping the palms on the floor.

Inhaling, bend the knees and draw them to the chest.

Exhaling, bring the knees to the floor near the right arm and simultaneously turn the head to the left side. 

Breath normally in this position for around 10 seconds or as long as is comfortable.

Inhaling, bring the knees back to the chest and at the same time turn the head back to the centre. 

Do the same for the other side.

Do this daily for a few weeks at least. When you are absolutely comfortable doing this preparatory exercise, you try Ardha Matsyendrasana.

Preparatory pose 2 for Matsyendrasana

This pose is also called Ardha Matsyendrasana. This means the half Matsyendrasana.

Sit with the head, neck and trunk straight and legs extended in front of the body.

Bend the left leg and place the left foot on the floor outside the right knee. 

Exhaling, twist the body toward the left. 

Place the left hand approximately 6 inches behind the left hip, with fingers pointing away from the body.

Keeping the back straight, twist to the left. Twist from the lower spine and not from the shoulders. 

Bring the right arm over the left leg. You may bend forward slightly, but remember to keep the spine straight.

Look over the left shoulder. Do not use the arms to force the body into the twist. Instead gently twist the lower spine with every exhalation, relaxing in to the posture. Use the arms only to maintain your balance. 

Breath normally. Hold this position for 10 seconds or as long as possible. 

Repeat on the opposite side. 


Sit with the head, neck and trunk straight and legs extended in front of the body.

Bend the left leg and place the left heel below the right hip. 

Bend the right leg and place the right foot on the floor outside the left knee.

Raise the arms to shoulder level. Exhaling twist the body to the right.

Grasp the right foot with the left hand.

Twist deeper into the pose until you can wrap the right arm behind the body and rest it on the left waist. If you cannot twist further, then breath normally and hold this position as long as you can. Then relax and repeat on the other side.

If you can still twist further, then allow the right shoulder to pass over the right knee. Bend the left elbow and reach under the right knee to clasp the hands behind the back.

Gaze over the right shoulder with the chin parallel to the ground. 

Breath normally. Hold this position for 15 seconds or as long as is comfortable. 

Relax and repeat on the other side.


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