Matsyendrasana is named after the great yogi Matsyendranath. The word poorna means ‘hall’, ‘complete’; this asana is the complete form of Matsyendranath’s asana. In English, it is usually called ‘full spinal twist pose’.
Most people will be able to do ardha matsyendrasana, the half spinal twist pose4, but few will be able to do the full form.
Sit on the ground.
Stretch both legs in front of the body.
Place the left foot on the right hip joint, as near the side of the waist as possible.
The left thigh should remain flat on the floor.
Bend the right leg and raise the knee.
Place the right foot on the left side of the left knee, keeping the sole flat on the ground.
Carefully twist the spine to the right hand side.
Try to place the left armpit against the right side of the raised right knee.
If possible, grasp the right ankle with the left hand.
Please don’t strain – this final twist is not easy.
Straighten the left arm and line it up with the right calf.
Place the right arm behind the back.
This is the final pose.
Twist the head to the right.
Close the eyes.
Stay in the final pose for as long as it is comfortable.
Then return to the starting position.
Relax all the muscles.
Repeat the same process in the opposite direction, that is, twisting to the left.
The left twist will require the same leg positions as described for the right twist, but in reverse.
The entire practice is comprised of a right hand twist followed by a left hand twist.
Breathing, awareness and duration
Exhale while twisting the body into the final pose. Breathe slowly in the final pose. Inhale as you return to the forward facing position.
Be aware of breathing in the final pose. If you wish you can fix your awareness at the eyebrow centre and imagine that you are breathing in and out through this centre.
Remain in the final pose for as long as you feel comfortable. A reasonable duration to maximize the benefits is a two or three minute twist on both sides of the body.
On completing poorna matsyendrasana, just sit quietly with the legs stretched in front of the body, the trunk and head upright.
The benefits are the same as for ardha matsyendrasana, but accentuated.