Marichyasana Yoga Poses
Marichyasana type yoga poses can be thought of as binding seated yoga poses.
When trying to bind in these binding yoga poses, you can think of them as having three levels of difficulty. The easiest poses to bind are those where you simply bend forwards inside the marichyasana leg. More difficult is binding with the opposite arms while in a twist. More difficult yet is binding while twisting with the other leg in lotus.
Working from easy to moderately hard, here are some suggestions for learning to bind easily in marichyasana style yoga poses.
Two very easy marichyasana variations
One of my favorite marichyasana yoga poses for beginners has the non-marichyasana leg is in a kneeling position (I'll often refer to this leg position as the "hero pose" leg position.)
Another variation is to have the foot folded to the inside of the thigh. This can be thought of as a modified or easy "Marichyasana B".
For both variations the first step can be that of reaching the marichyasana side arm forwards inside the knee. You can have the other forearm on the floor, of prop yourself with your hand on the floor behind you.
Lifting the hips can make it easier to reach forwards.
Reach the shoulder towards the ear and reach the ribs away from the pelvis.
The focus in this position is on making the arm and spine feel long. Memorize the feeling of length.
After holding for a few moment reach the arm out to the side in front of the shin.
Rotating the arm internally for forward bending marichyasana yoga poses
In the pictures below my non-marichyasana leg is in lotus, hower you can see how I'm reaching the arm across the front of the shin and then rolling my arm internally so that the elbow points forwards.
Keep the feeling of length and either reach the armpit towards the shin or pull the shin towards the armpit. You can use your free hand to help pull the shin inwards.
Hold for a few moments to get the feel and then rotate the arm internally (bicep rolls down and tricep rolls up). Reach the arm back at the same time but keep the armpit in front of the shin. (The idea is to "bind" the leg.)
Bend the elbow and reach the hand across the back towards the opposite side. Grab the other wrist behind the back. (Clasping fingers will also do.)
Doing an open twist in forward bending marichyasana poses
Because you can lift your hips in the above position you may find it easier to bind. However if you are still having difficulty then twist away from the marichyasana leg.
Move the non marichyasana side of your ribcage back. Move that shoulder back also.
You may find that after a few breaths in this position you then have room to turn forwards and/or bend forwards.
Keep your hips lifted until you bind
If you are still having difficulty hold onto a towel with both hands behind the back (or grab onto your mat.)
Once you have grabbed your fingers or a wrist you can sink your butt to the floor. (Use both legs to control your decent and sink down slowly.)
Also, you may find it easier to twist away from the marichyasana leg initially. If you twist away from the marichyasana leg doing an open twist, you can experiment with reaching your arms back. Make them feel long at the same time. Then see if you can turn to the front and from there bend forwards.
You may find that you can use the arm against your bound leg (the marichyasana leg) for leverage.
Whether doing an open twist (turned away from the marichyasana leg) or bending forwards, you can move your shoulders back relative to your ribcage and work on straightening your arms one arm at a time.
Non Binding Marichyasana Yoga Pose Option
Note, that you can do a non-binding marichyasana yoga pose by using your arms to support your ribcage and then bend your elbows to sink your ribcage.
This could be used as an option for low lunge or as a preparation for binding marichyasana yoga poses.
Shoulder Stretching preparations for Forward bending Marichyasana Yoga Poses
Now that you have a taste of what is required in this simple marichyasana pose, you might find that it helps to stretch your shoulders prior to doing this pose. If you can clasp your hands behind your back then a simple sequence of shoulder movements is to move your shoulders back, then make your arms feel long as you reach them down. Then keep the length and try to lift. Then relax, switch the interlace of your fingers and repeat, switching finger interlock each time.
If you can't grab your hands behind your back then clasp a towel between your hands. Shoulders back. Then pull your hands away from each other to stretch the towel. Make arms feel long then lift your arms. Then relax and repeat, if possible moving your hands slightly closer together.
Another shoulder preparation stretch for forward bending marichyasana yoga poses is to grab one wrist behind the back.
Straighten the elbow of the "grabbed" arm. Then pull the straight arm outwards so that you stretch the bent arm.
Hold for a few moments. Then pull the straight arm inwards (towards the bent arm side of your body) to stretch the straight arm. Switch hands and repeat a few times.
For all of the above shoulder stretches, move slowly and smoothly, even during the relaxation phase of each exercise.
For marichyasana a, the non-marichyasana leg is straight. To lift your hips use your straight leg arm to help. Then reach forwards with your marichyasana arm.
Make arm and spine feel long. Hold and when you are ready, reach the arm to the side. Hug the shin in towards the armpit.
Internally rotate the arm, then reach it behind the back. Press it against your back to hold it in place, then take your other hand off of the floor and clasp fingers. Work towards grabbing the wrist with the marichyasana hand.
If you have your hips lifted but you also want to use your hand to pull the shin in (prior to binding) then see if you can balance between your feet. You may have to act as if trying to stand on your marichyasana foot.
To get the feeling for "standing" on your marichyasana foot you can try reaching both hands forwards with your hips lifted.
To bind, you may find it is easier if you turn away from the marichyasana leg.
Once you have the bind then slowly turn forwards. Try to use your marichyasana shoulder to push that arm back against the shin. Use this leverage to help bend forwards.
Keep the non-marichyasana leg feeling long. Push forwards through the heel and for balance you may find it helps to push the leg down.
Marichyasana Hip Lifted or Down?
Should the marichyasana side hip be lifted or down?
I like to leave my options open. Try it with hip up and then try it with hip down. Get good at doing both options.
Then choose which option(s) you want to use in any particular practice.
(As an example, start with the hip up, then lower it.)
C Version Marichyasana Yoga Pose
For the marichyasana yoga pose C position you twist (or turn) towards the marichyasana leg.
A shoulder stretching prep for marichyasana C
A shoulder preparation that may be helpful is to reach the arms out to the sides and internally rotate them. Start with the shoulder blades spread. Then retract the shoulder blades. Then spread (protract) them again while keeping the arms internally rotated.
You may find that having some scapular awareness (and some ability to control your scapulae) comes in handy when trying to bind, especially in the twisting marichyasana yoga poses.
To begin with, twist towards your marichyasana leg without trying to bind. Have your hands "behind" you. Then use your hands to help slide your ribcage leg or right. Notice how you can position your sternum so that it is behind your knee. You can also position your ribcage so that your shoulder is behind the knee.
Clasp the knee and then try to get the upper arm to the outside of the knee. Again slide your ribcage from side to side.
Reach your binding arm past the outside of the knee. The binding arm is the straight leg arm for the C version marichyasana yoga pose. Aim to get your elbow past the front of the shin.
You may find it helpful to push the marichyasana knee towards the opposite side.
Once you've reach the elbow past the front of the shin, roll the arm internally, and then bend the elbow and fold the forearm to the inside of the leg. Lock the arm in place and then take your other hand off of the floor to clasp fingers.
On the first go you may find that you can only hold for a few seconds. That's fine. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting that far.
See if you can repeat the same side and see if you can hold for a little longer before doing the other side.
Notice What's Going On (And Change What's Going On)
Because the focus can be on grabbing the fingers or wrist or hand when doing marichyasana type yoga psoes, you may lose awareness of other parts of your body.
Once you've tried the c version marichyasana yoga pose a few times, expand your awareness.
- Keep your spine long as you bind or work at lengthening it once you have bound.
- Optionally focus on creating space between your ribs.
- Focus on the binding side of your ribcage first and then the other side.
Also notice the position of your shoulder blades.
- Does it help to move your binding side shoulder blade away from the spine or towards it?
Personally, for the non-marichyasana side I find that I need to move that shoulder blade towards the spine. It may vary depending on how deep your twist is.
You may find it helps to move the straight leg out or in for balance. You can also experiment with pressing the down through the marichyasana foot, as if trying to stand on it.
Also notice which way your pelvis is trying to twist.
- Experiment with turning your pelvis into the twist. You may find that this pinches your marichyasana hip. (It depends on how deeply your twist.)
- Then experiment with turning your pelvis in the opposite direction. This may only be a miniscule amount, but if you make the effort smooth and mindful you may notice that it changes the feeling of the pose.
Which hand grabs which when doing marichyasana yoga poses?
If you are in the pose deep enough to grab a wrist try grabbing one wrist and then the other. Notice how each grip affects the pose.
I was taught to use the binding hand to grab. So if the left leg is in marichyasana then the right hand grabs the left wrist.
However, I've found that the opposite grip can feel easier, or different. And so the suggestion here is, don't be afraid to switch grips. Get good at using both options.
Check out seated yoga poses for more seated yoga pose options.
Marichyasana yoga poses, Quick links
- Binding Yoga Poses: Using the strength of one part of the body against another
- Virasana (Hero Pose): Getting your butt to the floor while kneeling gradually
- Marichyasana D: Making the Impossible Difficult, Tips for Binding
- Seated Yoga Poses: A sequence of seated poses, not for beginners