Asana of the Week: Marichyasana A

"This asana is dedicated to the sage Marichi, son of the Creator, Brahma.  Marichi was the grandfather of Surya, the Sun God" (BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga).

Marichyasana A (Sage Twist A) is an awesome stretch for the inner hip joints, but the first thing I noticed about this pose was the deep internal heat it builds in the core.  Extending through the sternum rather than the head, the fold is very active, and the thigh of the bent leg presses into the side for a good organ massage.  It's a particularly satisfying position with the breath going strong.

The first time I tried this asana, it was an awkward experience.  I bound my hands and tried to fold forward, but I was completely stuck.  I couldn't fold at all.  I tried rounding the back to bring the head closer to the knee, but that was no good.  I decided the better approach was working on breathing length into the spine and keeping the chest open.  Eventually, the fold started to happen.

 Iyengar says in Light on Yoga that "the inner side of the [right] foot should touch the inner side of the outstretched [left] thigh," but as I learned the pose, the foot of the bent leg should be a wide-hand's distance from the inner thigh of the extended leg.  I find that practicing any of the Marichyasanas this way allows me to better ground through the foot of the bent leg, which in turn allows better use of the leverage of the upper arm against the shin to assist in the twist and fold.   The bind here also does a nice number on my shoulders, pulling them down and back.

I like to follow this asana by breathing the spine upright while maintaining the bind, then twisting open for a few breaths, away from the bent right leg, and gazing back over the left shoulder.  This further contracts the right side with an extra twist and feels pretty nice on the hips and shoulders.  I found this little move in The Complete Book of Vinaysa Yoga by Srivatsa Ramaswami, which is jam-packed with endless variations and sequences based on foundational asanas.  After this opening twist, I usually follow with an unbound variation of Marichyasana C, then Ardha Matsyendrasana, then a gloriously opening firelog pose before jumping back to repeat it all on the other side.  This sequence is such a great hip opener and heat-builder, I've been practicing it every day for the past two weeks.

What's your experience with this asana?


  1. I actually love this posture even though, due to upper back issues, I can't bind completely and use a belt. The stretch in the back of my hips is divine :)

  2. i like the act of stretching forward first with my arm before snaking around to bind. something dancer-ish in there...

  3. Emma - Agreed. Actually, I've always thought of that action as more likened to swimming, like I'm swimming out of my hips, but yes, there is grace and balance to it.

  4. I learned this pose with the foot of the bent knee drawn back and placed almost outside the hip, to really create space to lengthen forward. Bliss. I love how it leaves my belly feeling. I love the Ashtanga Marichyasana A-B-C-D: the four together really leave me feeling totally cleansed afterwards.