Marichyasana (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I) is the first of four poses dedicated to the sage within the Ashtanga primary series. “Marichi” means ray of light (sun or moon) in Sanskrit and is one of the original seers (rishis) or lords of creation (prajapatis) that Brahma created.
This deep forward fold stretches your back, shoulders, and legs while extending your spine and giving your organs a cleansing squeeze. Like all forward folds, Marichyasana calms the mind and reduces stress. Add it in towards the end of your practice after you’ve already warmed up your hips, hamstrings, and shoulders. Avoid rounding your back as you fold and above all else, remember to breathe.
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I basics
Sanskrit: Marichyasana I (mar-ee-chee-AHS-anna)
Pose type: Forward fold
Targets: Lower body
Why we love it: “I confess that there were several years of my life when I would feel tremendous relief at the end of each class that did not include this pose,” says Yoga Journal senior editor Renee Marie Schettler. “My shoulders and hips were quite tight and seemingly refused to be contorted in that way. It would feel terrible and wrong in my body when my teacher would crouch next to me and create the bind between my hand and wrist. I learned instead to keep my hands at my side and quietly shake my head whenever that teacher wandered close to my mat during that pose. Instead, I let myself simply do what I inexpertly could. My arms would be in an awkward attempt at a bind around my back, my hands at least the length of a ruler from touching, my knee splaying out to the side, and my chest could lean forward an immeasurably small amount. It wasn’t anything like the intended alignment of the pose. Yet, it was what I could do. Most importantly, I was no longer straining, holding my breath, and muttering curses under my breath.
Slowly, with time and with benefit from other poses that opened the shoulders and hips, I was able to come into something more closely resembling the pose. It still doesn’t feel intuitive to me. I can, though, experience what I understand to be the takeaways of the pose. Finally. Even if I am still inching toward trying to appreciate that.”
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Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I stretches your back, shoulders, and chest. For some yogis, it can also help relieve low back tightness and low back pain.
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin in Staff Pose. Press forward with your big toe mounds, spin your inner thighs down, and root down with your thigh bones.
- Make sure you are sitting directly on top of your sitting bones (rather than falling behind them).
- Move your sacrum in and up toward your navel, while extending your sternum away from your navel to lengthen your front body.
- Bend your right knee to draw your foot back. Your heel should be just in front of your right sitting bone.
- Isometrically pull your right heel back to rock your pelvis slightly forward.
- Let your right knee fall open slightly and tilt your torso forward, so that it comes to the inside of your right thigh.
- Reach your right hand forward and lengthen your torso. Pin your right knee back in toward your midline so that your inner right knee hugs your right outer shoulder.
- Internally rotate your right arm, placing your right armpit against your right shin.
- Keeping this connection, bend your right elbow and take your right arm behind your back.
- Reach behind your back with your left arm to clasp your left wrist with your right hand.
- Inhale. Reach your sternum forward to lengthen your front body.
- Exhale. Hinge from your hips and fold forward to lengthen your back body.
- Aim the crown of your head toward your toes, and release your shoulders away from your ears.
- Hold for 10–12 breaths. Lift your torso and unwind your arms on an inhalation.
- Return to Staff Pose, then repeat on the other side.
Because of tightness in the groin, beginners often have difficulty keeping their bent-knee thigh close to the side of the torso. This makes it more difficult to notch the shin into the armpit and wrap the arm around the leg. As you bring the arm forward in preparation for the pose, grip the bent-knee shin with the opposite-side hand and pull the thigh in against the side torso.
Teaching Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I
These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Students can sit on a bolster or thickly folded blanket to help them move more deeply into the forward bend in this pose. Beginners can also use a strap between their hands if they are having difficulty clasping their hands behind their back.
- Once in the full pose, students can increase the stretch in their shoulders and chest and further lengthen their front torso by reaching their hands away from their torso and straightening their elbows a bit.
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I prep
Prepare for this pose by practicing sitting tall, without folding forward or taking the bind: Bend one knee, and gently hold onto your shin. Use your hands to help you sit as tall as possible, pushing your low back forward. Lean forward if comfortable. Hold for several breaths, then repeat on the other side.