If you find ardha matsyendrasana easy then you can try the following more difficult form: Adjust your body in the way explained in the first part of stage 1. Instead of grasping your right ankle with your left hand, you should push your left hand and arm underneath the bent right leg, that is, the space between the calf and thigh of the right leg. A little bit of adjustment may be necessary, but it is possible to reach backwards behind the back with the left hand.
Don’t strain. Fold your right arm behind the back in the way described in the basic technique.
Try to grasp the right and left hands behind the back. We repeat, don’t force, for this needs a reasonable degree of flexibility. If your back is sufficiently supple you may even find that you can grasp the wrist of one hand with the other hand.
Note: This variation gives greater leverage and therefore an accentuated twist of the back. For this reason the influence of the asana is enhanced. A further advantage of this variation is that it is more stable; therefore it is possible to remain in the final pose for longer periods of time compared to the basic form of ardha matsyendrasana.
This asana acts predominantly on the abdomen and the spine, by applying a powerful torsion to the trunk of the body. When the trunk is twisted the muscles and nerves of the back and spine are contracted on one side, while the muscles and nerves on the other side are simultaneously stretched. When the trunk is twisted in the opposite direction then the process is the same but reversed. The overall result is an excellent alternate compression and extension of these nerves and muscles bringing them into the best possible condition. As with many other asanas, sluggish and stagnant blood is squeezed out of the spinal regions and encouraged to recirculate to the heart and lungs for purification, which also contributes much to bringing the spinal muscles and nerves into optimum health.
This torsion of the spine is useful for reducing the tendency of adjoining vertebrae to fuse together, this being most prevalent with elderly people.
Ardha matsyendrasana has been found beneficial in the treatment of backache, neckache and headache as well as general body stiffness. It helps to remove any tendency towards round shoulders and has been found useful by many people who have mild cases of sciatica and slipped disc. Remember also that the health of the body depends greatly on the condition of the spinal nerves, for these are the communication lines between the brain and body.
The organs in the abdomen are also alternately compressed and stretched, the compression being partly applied by the pressure of the thigh against the abdomen. This gives the organs a good massage, recirculates impure blood, and tones up the associated nerves. It has been found useful for helping to treat all manner of ailments, including diabetes, indigestion, rheumatism and constipation. In the case of constipation, it is important that the body is first of all twisted to the right, because faecal matter travels up the ascending colon along the transverse colon, and then downwards in the descending colon before being expelled from the body. Therefore an initial twist to the right followed by a left hand twist compresses the colon and activates the nerves associated with intestinal peristalsis in the same order as the progressive movement of faecal matter.
If this asana is done for long periods of time with awareness then it can bring about a wonderful sense of relaxation and easily lead to fruitful introspection. The fact that yogi Matsyendranath once practised inner yoga techniques in the full form of the asana is a good recommendation.