Ardha matsyendrasana is a twisting yoga pose.
It is also a binding yoga pose.
In it you sit with your pelvis on the ground one foot pulled in close to the opposite buttock. The other leg is positioned so that the foot is to the outside of the other thigh with the knee pointing upwards.
(Note that the ankle of the top foot is close to the knee of the other foot.)
If your right leg is on top you can position your left arm to the outside of your right thigh and use if for leverage to help you twist to the right. You could also internally rotate your left arm to reach your left forearm beneath your right thigh and grab your right wrist behind your back.
Note that you twist towards your uppermost leg.
In some versions of this pose, instead of grabbing your hand behind your back you actually grab onto the instep of your right foot with your arm to the outside of your right knee.
However, if you can't grab the foot, another option is to grab the top of the lowest knee instead.
Ideally both sittin bones are on the floor in this pose. That means that you can't "sit" on your bottom foot.
Try to position it close to your buttock without it being under your buttock.
Depending on your flexibility and relative size of your limbs you may need to position your top leg foot to the inside of your bottom leg shin.
Note that you can experiment with different foot positions to make it easier (or harder) to bind.
I usually to have the top ankle close to the knee of the bottom leg.
However, some people can get away with having their foot closer towards the buttock.
Note that if you are twisting to the left (left leg on top) you may have a tendency to try to turn your pelvis to the left also.
To counter act this tendency turn your pelvis in opposition to the twist of your ribcage.
One reason for doing this is to deepen the spinal twist in ardha matsyendrasana.
Another reason is to give the top leg hip joint room to move.
If you create space in your top leg hip you may find it easier to pull your top knee inwards, towards your center line.
While sitting without binding you can focus on pulling your top leg towards the opposite side.
When you are actually twisting in ardha matsyendrasana with your arm to the outside of your thigh or actually binding with it, you can focus on making your top leg stable so that you can use it as a foundaiton for deepening your twist.
So, if your left leg is on top, make it still so that you can push your right arm against it to deepen your twist to the left.
If you can't get your arm to the outside of your thigh then hold on to your knee with your opposite arm and use your arm to pull your shoulder towards the knee.
If you want to grab the inside of the foot press your arm back against your knee to level the side of your ribcage forwards.
From there if you can first grab the knee of your bottom foot and then, when you loosen up, you can try grabbing the insole of your top leg foot.
Once you have the foot, use the leverage offered by your arm to try to deepen the twist. But prior to that focus on relaxing. The more you relax the easier it is (depending on the position you are in) to stretch.
So, if you are twisting to the left and your left leg is on top, lift your left hip.
You can try sinking it to the floor once you have bound.
Reach your right shoulder towards your left knee.
You may have to sink the right side of your ribcage down in order to do this.
Try to get your elbow past your knee (as in the picture to the left.) Once this is the case, then bend your elbow and try to pass it underneath your leg.
Focus on "internally rotating" your right shoulder to do this.
Once you have reached past the top of your bottom thigh you can reach your left arm behind your back. Pull the left shoulder and left side of your ribcage back when you do so.
Once you've grabbed your wrist (or fingers) behind your back, press your left sitting bone down and try to get your weight even on both sitting bones.
Use your arms to gently turn your ribcage deeper.
Lengthen your neck and try to open the front of your ribcage.
If you have trouble betting your arm under your leg in ardha matsyendrasana, you may find that penguin shoulder stretch helps.
Friction and pressure are two simple techniques that I use to help my students get stronger and more flexible. These simple techniques also offer a roadway into not only learning how to activate your muscles, but getting a feel for them and your body. Three challenging yoga poses that I use these techniques in are chaturanga, front splits and side splits. While they might not help you get all the way down into the splits, they'll help you feel stronger, and more integrated as you work towards them. And because I've got to pay for my daughters schooling this week, I'm offering a discount on the frictional muscle control videos. (First 100 people only can save over 30%).
Active stretching teaches you muscle control to not only improve flexibility but also body awareness. You'll learn how to adjust postures for better feel as well as more control through a broader range of motion.
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