Marichyasana C: Step-By-Step Guide


Ashtanga yoga Marichyasana c shown from front and back

Marichyasana C is a pose from Ashtanga Yoga. It is the third of 4 Marichyasana poses (a, b, c and d). And so in this article, we’re going to focus all our attention on just this Marichyasana pose, Marichyasana C.

Marichyasana C is the first sitting twist in the Ashtanga yoga primary series. It is practiced in a similar manner to Marichyasana A, with the only difference being that instead of binding the bent leg with the arm of that side, we instead bind with the opposite arm. And this is what adds the twist.

Marichyasana is one of those poses where it can feel great to be adjusted in by a teacher. The key reason is that for most practitioners it can be challenging to breathe comfortably and stay upright in such twisting poses. And so a teacher is able to help the student stay upright and also explore the twist more efficiently.

And so this is one pose I love to assist my students in. Of course, depending on the flexibility of the student there are different ways to adjust this posture. However, if done correctly, all variations can help students feel most comfortable in this pose.

I’ve also written step-by-step guides for all four Marichyasana poses of the Ashtanga Primary Series (Marichyasana A, Marichyasana B, and Marichyasana D), be sure to check them out if you’re interested.

Perhaps you are thinking about how to practice Marichyasana C, 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 C

The key benefit of Marichyasana C is that by rotating the spine, we create length and flexibility. Additionally, it helps to stretch out the intercostal muscles between the ribs, which in turn help prepare the body for backbends. Finally, it helps massage the lower abdomen and organs.

As David Keil discusses in his book Functional Anatomy of Yoga, “twists of all shapes and sizes are extremely beneficial and tie directly back to one of yoga’s most basic and central purposes: to maintain suppleness of the spine and general health of the central nervous system.”

This pose can be rather challenging to beginners. As always, there are modifications and variations which I will discuss below.

According to John Scott in his book Ashtanga Yoga, “spinal rotation does not involve twisting from the pelvis. The binding works to sit you forward into a square pelvic foundation. You then lengthen out of the lumbar spine and rotate only the thoracic spine”.

So let’s now have a look at how to actually practice Marichyasana C.

Marichyasana C: Step-by-Step

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 C, 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 of each posture from standing. And so from standing:

Vinyasa to enter Marichyasana C

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

Three variations of Marichyasana C

How to do Marichyasana C

Sapta 7: Inhale and jump forward into Dandasana. From here bend your right leg and place your foot on the mat. Aim to align the outer edge of your right foot with the outer face of your right hip joint and allow your right knee to face towards the sky. Try to keep your right foot parallel with the left leg.

From here, bring your right hand to the outside of the right knee and gently bring your knee more to the center. Use your right hand to keep your knee in that position and flex your torso to the right. Aim for your right armpit to touch your right thigh.

Now roll your shoulder and rotate your left arm. Bend at the elbow and try to bring it towards your right shin. Bring your right hand behind you and see if you can clasp your fingers. If this is comfortable, you can aim for a deeper bind by holding your left wrist with your right hand.

Additionally, don’t forget to keep the left leg active.

Something you can work on here is to sit tall from your pelvis. This will help encourage the rotation to come from the thoracic spine.

How to exit Marichyasana C

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). 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 foot in

Inhale bring the right knee in 

Exhale get ready to wrap

Inhale wrap the arm around the leg and lengthen

Exhale twist

Marichyasana C Bind

In order to bind in Marichyasana C, we have to bring the body forward so that the torso comes close to the knee. This pose can be challenging for most ashtanga yoga beginners, who either lack flexibility in the shoulder or have to work on their technique and come closer to the bent leg.

For more expert and detailed advice, check out David Keil’s advice on how to bind in Marichyasana C in the video below.

And so if you are finding the Marichyasana C bind challenging, then keep in mind that there are some modifications and variations that you can try out. These are discussed below.

Just one thing I would like to point out that I find extremely important: You can do Marichyasna C whether you can bind or not. And so if you are finding it challenging to bind, you can still get all the tasting and lengthening benefits of this pose, even if your hands can’t find each other behind your back.

Modifications and variations

As a general rule, the main modification for Marichyasana C is for those who have trouble binding their hands. In this case, the most common solution is to use a yoga strap. This way we can still bind, even if we can’t get our arm all around our leg and our hands can’t touch.

Using a yoga strap we still get the feeling of binding, even if our hands aren’t actually touching.

Marichyasana C modification with a belt for those who can't bind

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.

There are two more common Marichyasana C modifications. Both involve placing your right hand on the floor behind you.

The first involves hugging your right leg with your left arm and twisting to the right. This is the easiest version of Marichyasana C.

The other involves hooking your left arm outside your right leg and keeping your left elbow at an approximately 90-degree angle. This is a deeper twist than the first version, but it is also suitable for most beginners.

Beginner’s tips

Beginner’s tips really do vary depending on each person’s body, their flexibility, and their abilities. And so to be able to offer nay beginner’s tips, I will point out what I commonly see:

Tight shoulders

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.

Tight hamstrings

Given that Marichyasana C is a twisting pose, you could perhaps wonder why tight hamstrings affect this pose. Well, the answer is that according to David Keil: tight hamstrings tend to “pull the pelvis under in a posterior tilt on the side of the bent knee.”

One way to help is to sit on a yoga block or a blanket, as this will help lift the pelvis slightly, making it slightly easier to stay upright, regardless of how tight your hamstrings are.

Short legs

It is a fact that Marichyasana C is easier for those with long limbs. And this is because it is easy then for long arms to wrap around long legs. But what happens if we have short legs?

I had a student with such proportions and no matter how easily she could twist her thoracic spine, she could not keep her arms wrapped around her bent leg. It would just slide off!

And so the modification we found for her was to place the foot of her bent leg on a block. This helped raise the height to which the bent knee came to, thus allowing her to keep her arm wrapped around her leg.

Short arms

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.

Props for Marichyasana C

In Ashtanga Yoga we typically don’t use props. However, when trying to work on Marichyasana C, it is worthwhile investigating and working with pros to see how we can access the pose more efficiently, even just as an exploration.

Yoga strap

A yoga strap can be used for those who have difficulty clasping their hands behind their back.

Yoga blanket

People with tight hamstrings can sit on a yoga blanket, so as to help tilt the pelvis forward. This may help students find length and height for Marichyasana C.

Yoga block

A yoga block can be placed upright between the straight leg and the bent leg’s foot. This may help to keep the foot parallel to the straight leg.

The wall

Interestingly enough, the wall can also be used for Marichyasana C. In this case, face the wall and place the sole of the straight leg on the wall. This will encourage you to keep the straight leg upright and fully flexed as you twist.

Common Mistakes

As with any posture, there are certain things to try to avoid.

Incorrect breathing

Any twisting pose may make it harder to breathe. And so this is a common mistake I see in Marichyasana C, restricted breathing. Of course, it is only natural that our breathing will be affected in this deep twist. However, try to work with the breath and move into the pose only to the extent to which your breathing isn’t affected too much.

Leaning back

This is something that most beginners do when practicing this pose, especially when we can’t bind. And so the main modification is the place the left hand behind us. The problem with that is that we tend to let all our weight fall towards the back.

This prevents us from finding length in this twisting pose. And so one tip would be to just place the fingertips on the floor. This way we are learning to not rely on falling back, but on bringing the weight forward and up.

Alexia Koletsou

Alexia Koletsou is a Level 1 Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher with a Ph.D. in Science Communication. She received her blessing to teach Ashtanga Yoga in 2019, from the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, where she has had the honor of practicing with R. Sharath Jois multiple times over the years. She is the owner of her own Shala in Greece and now shares her knowledge on yogamyoldfriend.com and her YouTube channel Alexia K Yoga.

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