If you have ever been to an Ashtanga Yoga class, you may have practiced Marichyasana B. It is the second of 4 Marichyasana poses (A, B, C, and D). And so in this article, we’re going to focus all our attention on the second of the Marichyasana poses, Marichyasana B.
Marichyasana B is an asana from the Ashtanga primary series. It is very similar to Marichyasana A, with the key difference being that in this version of the pose, the leg is in lotus and not straight as it is in version A. Capturing the foot within the binding of the leg intensifies the stretch.
Marichyasana B is one of those poses where it can be very easy for some students, even as complete beginners, while being very challenging for others.
The key factor that will affect how easy or challenging you find this pose is if you have long limbs (which will make it easier to bind) and also how open your hips are (so as to allow you to enter lotus pose).
I’ve also written step-by-step guides for all four Marichyasana poses of the Ashtanga Primary Series (Marichyasana A, Marichyasana C, and Marichyasana D), be sure to check them out if you’re interested.
Perhaps you are thinking about how to practice Marichyasana B, or are just curious about this pose. Keep reading to find out all there is about this pose!
I’ve written a complete guide to the Ashtanga yoga poses of the Primary series, so be sure to check it out.
Benefits of Marichyasana B
The key benefit of Marichyasana Β is that it can be an effective hip opener. As we fold forward with one leg bound in lotus, with the thighs at a 45′ degree angle we experience a softening of the hip. Similar to Marichyasana A, this pose can also stretch the shoulder of the wrapping arm.
This pose is rather challenging for those with tight hips. There are modifications and variations which I will discuss below.
And so a tendency is to bring the bent knee facing forward, or at least less than 45’ degrees. However, if we do maintain the knees at this angle, we get to really tap into the function of this pose, which is that of a hip opener.
According to John Scott in his book Ashtanga Yoga, “for women, the uterus benefits from being deeply massaged by your heel pressing into your lower abdomen. And if you normally experienced painful periods, practicing this asana may, in time, strengthen the uterus and improve menstrual function”.
How to do Marichyasana B
Let’s now have a look at how I would best guide a student in and out of this pose. And so if you are a student or a teacher interested in finding out how to cue Marichyasana B, this guide will be able to help.
As this is an Ashtanga Yoga Pose, I will also include the corresponding breath count to enter and exit this pose.
As with all seated postures in Ashtanga Yoga, we start off at Sapta (seven). This is because we assume that we start each posture from standing. And so from standing:
Vinyasa to enter Marichyasana B
Ekam 1: Inhale and raise your arms up
Dve 2: Exhale and fold forward
Trini 3: Inhale and lengthen
Catvari 4: Exhale and step or jump back to Chaturanga
Panca 5: Inhale and come into Upward facing dog
Sat 6: Exhale and come into Downward facing dog
How to do Marichyasana B
Sapta 7: Inhale and jump forward into Dandasana. From here bend your left leg and place it into half lotus. Next, bend the right leg and keep the knee facing toward the ceiling. Try to align the outer edge of the right ankle with the outer edge of your hip.
From here reach forward with your right arm till your shoulder is past the right knee. Then wrap your right arms around your right shin. Bring your left hand behind you and see if you can clap your fingers. If this is comfortable, you can aim for a deeper bind by holding your left wrist with your right hand.
Aim to keep your ribs touching the thigh of the bent leg.
Take an extra inhale to lift the chest.
Astau 8: Exhale and fold forward, keeping your torso between the right foot and the left knee.
Square your shoulders and press your bound right arm back.
We stay here for 5 breaths, during which we try to keep the content between the outer ribs and the thigh of the bent leg.
How to exit Marichyasana B
Nava 9: Inhale and release the hands. Exhale here.
Daca 10: Inhale and lift up with crossed legs.
Ekadaca 11: Exhale and jump back into Chaturanga
Dvadaca 12: Inhale and come into Upward facing dog
Trayodaca 13: Exhale and come into Downward facing dog
Caturdaca 14: Repeat steps 7-13 on the other side.
Most beginners especially tend to take more time between sapta (7) and astau (8). This means that we may need more time to bring the leg in, wrap the arm around, and then fold forward.
And so rather than rushing it, you can think of adding a few extra breaths:
Inhale sit in Dandasana
Exhale bring the left foot in half lotus
Inhale bend the right leg
Exhale allow the left knee to come towards the floor
Inhale reach the arms forward
Exhale get ready to wrap
Inhale wrap the arm around the leg and lengthen
Exhale fold forward
Modifications and variations
As a general rule, the main modification for Marichyasana A is for those who have tight hips and have trouble placing their foot in half lotus. In this case, the most common solution is to simply place the left foot on the floor behind the right heel. And from there, proceed to bind.
And so to the first modification is for those who find half-lotus too much, yet they still want to experience the bind. And so by placing the left foot behind the right heel, is a safer option for those with higher hips. And that’s great, in fact, most beginners prefer this option.
This is also a great option if you get into half lotus and yet you experience pain in the outside angle of the leg in lotus. The reason for this is that the hips may not be open enough to allow for a comfortable lotus, and instead, pressure is placed on the outer side of the ankle of the leg in half lotus.
So even if you experience such pain (or even knee pain), try Modification 1 or look into adding Modification 3 to your practice to soften your hips.
The second way to modify Marichyasana B is if have issues with binding your hands behind your back. In this case, the most common solution is to use a yoga strap.
Using a yoga strap we still get the feeling of binding, even if our hands aren’t actually touching.
And so when using a yoga strap, work on slowly and gradually walking your hands closer towards one another. This will help close the gap between your hands and in time, will help you clasp once the body is ready and more open.
This last modification is my absolute favorite and it is perfect for all levels of practitioner, and especially for those with tight hips.
We sit on a yoga block to protect the lower back. From there place the right leg on the floor and bring the left leg in a figure 4 position, keeping the left foot flexed.
And from there work on this hip-opening pose by bringing your chest closer to your left leg. You should be feeling it in the left hip.
You can either keep your hands behind you on the floor, always aiming to keep your torso upright. Alternatively, you can class your fingers in front of the right knee.
If you practice Ashtanga yoga, Marichyasana B is practiced right after Marichyasana A. You will quickly realise the similarities between these two postures.
Indeed, the only thing that changes is that the straight leg of Marichyasana A is not the lotus leg of Marichyasana B.
Depending on how easy or challenging Marichyasana A is, this will give you some indication of how easy or challenging you will find Marichyasana B.
And so for example, if you have trouble binding in Marichyasana A, then you will experience the same difficulty in Marichyasana B.
If you have tight hamstrings, the good news is that this will not affect how you practice Marichyasana B. The next determining factor is how open your hips are. And so if you have relative flexibility in your hips, then you may find Marichyasana easier than those with tighter hips.
Of course, it is important to point out that regardless of your body type and abilities, you can still practice one variation of Marichyasana B (as explained in the Modifications above).
As a side note, I wrote a beginner’s guide to Ashtanga Yoga, so if you’re looking for more information on this practice, be sure to check it out.
And so if you are looking for beginner’s tips, understand that really do vary depending on each person’s body, flexibility, and abilities. I will now point out what I commonly see in my students and how to work around it:
For those with tight shoulders, it may be challenging to wrap the arm around the leg. In this case, I advise students to use a strap as they will still get the stretch in the shoulder, which with time may slowly and gradually open up.
In this case, I advise students to avoid half-lotus, especially if this causes any knee pain. And so instead, consider doing Modification 1 mentioned above. That way we still get to experience the binding and help keep the knees happy.
For anyone with short arms, wrapping the arm around the leg can be near impossible. And so in this case, the best modification is to use a strap.
If you have tight hips, one option is to practice Modification 3, as that way you will get to really work on softening the hips. Alternatively, do Modification 3 and then do Marichyasana B.
Props for Marichyasana B
In Ashtanga Yoga we typically don’t use props. However, when trying to work on Marichyasana B, it is worthwhile investigating and working with props to see how we can access the pose more efficiently, even just as an exploration.
A yoga strap can be used for those who have difficulty clapping their hands behind their back.
A yoga block can be used for those working on Modification 3. You sit on the block so as to not strain the lower back. And from there you’ll notice that Modification 3 is a wonderful hip opener.
As with any posture, there are certain things to try to avoid.
- Try to keep your torso from rolling to the side. Instead, aim forward and keep it extended.
- Try to avoid brinigng your lotus knee too far forward. AIm to keep it at a 45′ degree angle from the other leg so as to experience the hip opening.
- Keep in mind that you can still do Marichyasana B even if you can’t bind. The bind alone does not make up the posture.
- Aim to keep the foot of the bent leg straight instead of allowing it to open to the side.
- Try to reach as far forward when first entering this posture. This will help maintain maximum length and will in turn help deepen the bind.
Where does the name Marichyasana come from?
Marichyasana gets its name from the Sage Marichy, who discovered this asana. According to Hindu mythology, Marichy is the son of God Brahma, the creator of all. He is also the grandfather of Surya, the Sun God, who we salute at the start of every practice.
And that is where the name Marichyasana comes from.