Marichi = ‘Ray of light’ (of the sun or moon) Asana = Posture
This posture is ‘dedicated to the sage Marichi’, son of Brahma the creator.
‘Tightness’ within the body isn’t necessarily a problem, in fact it’s usually the overly flexible people that are more prone to injury. When we’re looking at becoming more flexible, what our focus would be better directed towards is not ‘can I get my leg behind my head?’, but instead ‘do I have a healthy range of motion?’.
Amongst many other things, our Yoga practice can be about building a good relationship with ourselves; getting to know what feels good and what feels not-so-good, while working to expand the mind, and not to necessarily expand and stretch the body apart….
Marichyasana helps to primarily open the shoulders, chest and hips – three places we tend to feel ‘tightest’ due to daily habits of sitting, running, cycling, and generally holding on to emotional ‘tightness’ within these muscles. (If you’re wondering how exactly we store emotions in the hips, take a look at this fascinating article, which will help to explain it all). The chest and shoulders meanwhile, are places we tend to gather tension due to long periods of time spent sitting and typing at a computer, which especially shortens the pectoralis minor, a muscle which – when shortened and ‘tight’ – pulls the scapula forwards, creating a rounded upper back and collapsed chest, effectively decreasing our ability to breathe fully.
If you practice Ashtanga Yoga, you’ll be familiar with Marichyasana and its variations as part of the Primary Series of postures. If you’re not so familiar with this asana, then get to know Marichyasana A, or ‘Pose Dedicated To The Sage Marichi’!
To prepare the body for Marichyasana A:
Begin as always with your surya namaskar – as many rounds as you feel you need before you begin, but be sure to move through enough so that you feel warmer and a little more supple.
From there, come into a downward facing dog position, walking out the legs a few times.
Next, practice virabhadrasana 2, goddess pose and prasarita padottanasana in order to open up the hips a little.
Return to your downward facing dog after both sides and move on to trikonasana and parsvottanasana to provide a further warming up of the legs, whilst also lengthening the hamstrings and calf muscles.
From your next downward facing dog, practice eka pada raj kapotasana (pigeon pose) to each side of the body, to give the hips one final opening before returning to your last downward facing dog.
Finally, walk the feet to the front of the mat and lower the hips down into malasana or upavesasana….
- I like to approach Marichyasana A from Malasana or Upavesasana (last week’s practice posture). If you’re comfortable in Malasana or Upavesasana, then take this position to begin with….
- So, from your first position – which is already an effective hip-opener, and a posture we can easily fit into our day even when we’re not on the mat – stay here for a few breaths to encourage the muscles of the hips to release and relax a little.
- From there, lower the sitting bones down to the floor.
- Keeping the [left] leg bent, with the heel close in towards the [left] sitting bone, while extending out through the [right] leg, ensuring both sitting bones are firmly grounded to the earth.
- Flex the [right] foot, with the toes pointing up to the ceiling and the kneecap raised to engage the quadriceps.
- Next, place the [right] hand next to the [right] hip, and reach the [left] arm forwards on the inside of the [left] bent leg. Reach the fingertips forwards so that you’re almost bringing the upper body into a forward fold, with the chest extending forwards.
- Internally rotate the left arm, so that the palm of the hand faces away from you, and begin to wrap the arm around the leg, bringing the hand around behind the back. (or towards that direction).
- Keep hugging the [left] bent leg in to the side of the body, ensuring those sitting bones are still firmly grounded.
- Next, begin to take the [right] arm behind the back. If the hands reach each other, then clasp them together – if you’re able to you could hold on to the [left] wrist with the [right] hand. If the hands don’t meet – which they may well not do for many people – then simply keep the hands at the back, and continue to reach them towards each other without forcing or pushing. If the hands don’t meet, this is where some people may choose to take hold of a belt, and use that to hold on to with the hands, BUT as I mentioned earlier, your Yoga practice is about getting to know you, not about getting to know you-and-a-load-of-props…. Accepting where we are may be one of the most difficult things about the practice, but santosha or ‘contentment’ – accepting things as they are – is one of the most important of the Niyamas – or moral codes – to learn when we’re on the Yogic path.
- Whether the hands clasp or not, make sure both sitting bones remain grounded – there may be a temptation to allow one of the sides of the hips to lift just to get a little further in the posture, but practice a little satya, or ‘truthfulness’ – and maintain the integrity of where you are.
- As you exhale, draw the lower belly in to help yourself begin to fold forwards, leading with the chest and not the chin.
- Again, resist the temptation to bring your nose to your knee just because that makes it look like you’re able to ‘do’ the posture. Instead, be with the breath and turn your focus inward…. Remember, flexibility never comes from pushing and forcing – it comes when the brain sends a message to the body that it’s ok to relax and open up. (That, and a lot of practice too….) Take a look at this recent blog post for more on using the breath to navigate through difficult yoga postures.
- When you’ve made it to your fullest expression of Marichyasana A, stay here for around 10 breaths, or however many feels good to you.
- To transition out, unravel the arms, and extend both legs out, coming in to Dandasana (staff pose) before entering back in to your Malasana or Upavesasana, and repeating the posture to the other side of the body.
- If you’re looking to counterpose Marichyasana A, practice gomukhasana to ease the outer hip muscles, and then move to pursvottanasana to re-integrate the hips and hamstrings.
Remember that wherever you get to in a posture will be different each day, and different for each person too. There’s no ‘supposed to’ about any posture; so instead of getting caught up in what the asana ‘should look like’, focus more on how it feels to you.