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For Beginners: Marichyasana III (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi III)

Counter tight shoulders and achy backs with this rejuvenating twist.

By Claudia Cummins

When life conspires to keep me from my yoga practice for more than a few days, I eagerly anticipate my first morning back on the mat. I shift and shimmy in utter delight, nearly flinging myself into the arms of my favorite asanas. With every pose, I am reminded of how happy my body is to be stretched and swirled through its full range of motion.

I linger in every sensation, enjoying the resistance and then release of tight hamstrings, stuck shoulders, and creaky bones. I begin to feel as if my inner doors and windows have been thrown wide open and fresh spring breezes are wafting through, carrying away cobwebs and debris. After an hour or so of practice, I feel open and spacious and at home in the world. During these happy returns, I inevitably find myself drawn as if by a magnet to the deep and soul-drenching twist of Marichyasana III (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi III). One of the most exquisite and refreshing of all yoga postures, Marichyasana III serves as a balm for tight shoulders, achy backs, sluggish digestion, and stifled breathing. It leaves us balanced, rejuvenated, and ready for the day ahead.

To Begin

Start by sitting on the edge of a folded blanket in Dandasana (Staff Pose), with the pelvis balanced evenly on the two sitting bones (at the base of the pelvis), the spine long, and the legs straight. If the spine is well aligned in a neutral position, your sitting bones will nestle into the ground, your lower back will sweep gracefully inward, and your head will hover lightly above your hips.

If you find yourself sitting on the tailbone instead, with your lower back sagging and your head thrusting in front of your shoulders, prop yourself up on a few additional blankets so you can rest firmly on your sitting bones.

Let the legs grow long and straight, with the knees facing the sky and the heels reaching enthusiastically toward the wall in front of you. As you settle firmly onto your sitting bones, invite a sense of ease and spaciousness to bubble up from the base of the spine to the crown of your head. To heighten this sense of lightness and length, imagine there are little pockets of blue sky between each vertebra in your spine. Create length first and then revolve out of that extension--this is a fundamental principle that can be applied to all twists.

As you breathe steadily and comfortably, envision your spine within you; drop your awareness into your tailbone and then slowly, breath by breath, begin sweeping upward, paying attention to sensations in the sacrum, the waist, the upper back, the neck, and finally the skull. Enjoy this process of introspection, honing your sensitivity to the feelings passing through you deep inside.

When you're ready to move into the pose, bend your right leg and place your heel on the floor next to your inner left knee. Position the right knee so that it is in line with the right hip, neither leaning inward toward the opposite leg nor splaying outward toward the floor. Keep the right foot parallel to the left leg.

Spiral the Spine

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