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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

Pause for a moment and ask yourself if in repositioning your leg, you have inadvertently shifted the hips, rounding the lower back and compressing the right side waist in the process. If so, recommit to length and balance in the torso by rooting down evenly through the sitting bones, nudging the lower back inward and upward and lengthening through the spine. At the same time, release the outer right thigh down to counter the tendency of the right hip to hike upward. Remember: Though you're creating asymmetry in the lower body, you still want to maintain balance and length through your core.

When you feel balanced in the hips and long in the spine, interlace your fingers and place your hands atop your right knee, letting your elbows hang to the sides while your shoulder blades release toward the floor; allow the weight of your arms to encourage your right footprint to deepen. Notice how the downward release of energy creates a rebound effect up through your spine. Keep the back of the neck long by imagining that the crown of your head is being pulled toward the sky.

Inhale as you elongate your spine, then exhale as you slowly spin your belly toward the bent leg. Begin the revolution deep in your body, keeping the cradle of the pelvis still as you revolve the contents of your belly. Let your breath guide the movement, creating length as you inhale and helping you rotate further into the twist as you exhale.

Repeat this rhythmic action several times--inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to revolve--slowly breathing your way into the twist without sacrificing liveliness or length. Take your time with this exploration, enjoying the many colorful sensations kindled by the deep spiraling of the spine.

Deepen the Stretch

It's likely that at some point along the way, you'll feel the urge to use your hands to help you twist farther. When this happens, reach the right arm to the floor behind your right hip. (If this causes your spine to buckle backward, prop the right hand on a block.) At the same time, wrap the left hand around the outer right knee, with your palm resting above the shin. Use the leverage of the two hands to gently guide your torso just a little deeper into the twist. As you do this, anchor the right knee firmly in space so it doesn't slip to the left as the hand presses against it.

This may be as far as your spine would like to twist in Marichyasana III for now. If, however, this action feels comfortable and your spine begs you to crank around a little farther, inhale as you lift your left arm and exhale as you place the outer left elbow at the outside of the right knee. With your forearm perpendicular to the floor, extend your left fingertips toward the sky. Inhale again to lengthen your spine and then exhale as you revolve even further into the twist. Let the heart, shoulders, neck, and nose follow the graceful sweep of your spiraling spine, leading your eyes to gaze over your right shoulder.

Take Stock

Now take a moment to assess your status. As you've rotated, have you shifted the weight of your body onto the left side of your pelvis? If so, reroot through your sitting bones and deepen the crease of your outer right hip to re-create stability at the base. Has the juice drained out of your left leg, causing it to flop sloppily to the left? Reach firmly through the inner heel and reenergize the entire leg, turning the top of the left knee up toward the ceiling. Have your lower ribs sagged toward the right arm, turning the spine into a banana? Press the right hand firmly into the floor while gently drawing the floating ribs toward the left until the two sides of your waist feel equally long.

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