This is an excerpt from the book Spiritual Yoga – Awakening to Higher Awareness by Gyandev McCord of the Ananda Yoga® tradition. Shared with permission by @Hansa Trust.
We are excited to welcome Nayaswami Gyandev for the 27th Anniversary of the SOYA Annual Retreat in Sorrento, BC this June 3-5, 2022. Pick up your copy of the book at the retreat or order online here.
Ardha Matsyendrasana – Half Spinal Twist
This twist brings prana up the spine into the heart chakra, helping to awaken feelings of love and compassion. Once that prana reaches the heart, however, the bodily position – plus the heart’s long-held habit of reaching outside itself for fulfillment – predisposes the energy to move outward rather than to continue upward to the brain. Therefore, use that outward direction in a spiritually useful way: feel it expanding your awareness and sympathies, instead of scattering them, and affirm,
“I radiate love and goodwill to soul-friends everywhere.”
Sit with your legs in front of you, knees bent. Slide your right foot under your left knee and place the heel just outside your left hip. Rest you right knee on the floor directly in front of your navel. Cross your left foot over your right knee and place the foot flat on the floor. If the left sitbone rises off the floor, place a cushion under both sitbones to level the pelvis. Place your left hand on the floor behind you, and your right hand on the left knee.
Keep your shoulders level and relaxed as you twist: inhale as you press down through your left arm to lengthen your spin, and exhale as you twist to your left in your lower spine. Move the twist progressively up your spine over a number of breaths: lengthen as you inhale, twist as you exhale; finish with your neck, turning your head to gaze past the left shoulder. Use your trunk and spinal muscles to twist; don’t force the twist by pulling hard with your right arm. As you twist farther, hook your right elbow around your left knee. If you’re able to twist quite far without rounding your spine, bring your right arm to the outside of your left knee, elbow bent and fingers pointing up.
Breathe smoothly and naturally, silently affirming,
“I radiate love and goodwill to soul-friends everywhere. “
To exit, inhale and lengthen the spine, then exhale and slowly untwist. Rest the left knee atop the right, and either interlace your fingers on your left knee, or rest your hands on the soles of the feet. Pause, then reverse the positions of the legs and repeat on the other side.
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- Easier: If your right hip is tight, you can leave our right leg straight on the floor. If your left hip is tight, slide your left foot farther away from you, or place your left foot against your right shin rather than crossing it over your right knee.
- More advanced: Once you get fully into the twist, wrap your right arm around the outside of your left knee, then under the knee, and join your hands behind you. Keep your chest open and spine straight, and don’t force the twist by applying significant leverage with your arms.
Co-Director of the Ananda Meditation® Teacher Training, Director of Ananda Yoga®, Level 2 Ananda Yoga teacher, E-RYT 500, Raja Yoga Teacher, Spiritual Travel Host, Writer and Lecturer, Ananda Minister
Nayaswami Gyandev McCord is a longtime disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and a Kriyacharya (teacher of Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga meditation technique) with Ananda Sangha. He lives and teaches at Ananda Village in Northern California as well as online—primarily training yoga teachers and meditation teachers. He is a co-founder of Yoga Alliance and author of several books, including Spiritual Yoga: Awakening to Higher Awareness, as well as more than 50 yoga videos.