Marichyasana D: Step-By-Step Guide


Marichyasana D is a pose from Ashtanga Yoga. It is the fourth and final of the 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 D.

Marichyasana D is an advanced asana in the Ashtanga yoga primary series. It incorporates the leg position of Marichyasana B with the twisting of Marichyasana C. There are modifications for Marichyasana D, especially for those who can’t do lotus and those who can’t bind their hands.

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 an advanced twisting pose. 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 C), be sure to check them out if you’re interested.

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

The key benefit of Marichyasana D is that by rotating the spine, we create length and flexibility. Additionally, it helps to develop the trunk flexors and extensors, as well as the abdominals, which in turn help prepare the body for Supta Kurmasana.

David Keil discusses in his book Functional Anatomy of Yoga, that “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, “This is the most difficult asana up to this point in the primary series and is an excellent indicator of the level of expertise you have achieved”.

Indeed, the previous Janu Sirsasana variations help to open up the hips. And this in turn helps prepare the body for the lotus pose required in Marichyasana B and D. Additionally, the tasting and lengthening of the torso in Marichyasana C is then also a stepping stone for the twisting and lengthening in this Marichyasana D.

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

The three main steps to get into marichyasana D

How to do Marichyasana D

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 D, 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 D

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 D

Sapta 7: Inhale and jump forward into Dandasana. From here bend your left leg and bring it into half lotus. Next. bend up the right leg, as you did for Marichyasana A. 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.

This is the same step-up we use for Marichyasana B.

The difference is that this time we are going to twist, just like we did for Marichyasana C.

Place your right hand on the floor right behind you. Twist and place your left elbow on the outside of the right knee.

Now inhale and lengthen the spine.

On an exhale bring your arm on the outside of your knee, until your left shoulder is on the outside of the right knee, if possible.

Most students require a few extra breathe to be able to find this length and twist.

Now rotate your left arm and try to bring it behind your back. And from here reach your right hand behind you and see if you can clasp your fingers.

If clasping is easy, you can try to bind. Keep in mind that the “wrapper is the grabber” and so this means that the left arm is the wrapper, so the left hand holds on to the wrist of the right arm.

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 D

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 D Bind

In order to bind in Marichyasana D, we have to bring the torso close to the knee. This pose can be challenging for most ashtanga yoga beginners, who either lack flexibility in the shoulder or hips, or have to work on coming closer to the bent leg. Body proportions also affect the bind.

In the following video, Harmony Slater explains how to bind in Marichyasana D. She also offers modifications that you can try out, especially if you are an ashtanga yoga beginner, or if you have tight hips.

Additionally, if binding in Marichyasana D is something you are working on, you may like this video by David Keil. Here he focuses on Marichyasana C, however, the logic of the bind is the same.

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 D 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 D 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.

Two variations of Marichyasana D which use a yoga block and work on opening up the hip whilst twisting

Modifications and variations of Marichyasana D

As a general rule, the two main modifications for Marichyasana D are for those who have tight hips and find lotus difficult, and those who have trouble binding their hands. In this case, the most common solutions are to modify and not enter lotus and to use a yoga strap to help bind.

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.

There are two more common Marichyasana D 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 D.

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. Alternatively, you may simply place the left arm on the outside of the right leg so as to work on the twisting action.

Tight hips

Marichyasana D asks us to have one leg in half lotus. This may be extremely channeling for someone with tight hips. And so the simplest and most common solution is to bend the left leg and place it behind the right heel. This way, we may still access the twisting fiction of the pose, even if we can’t do lotus.

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 D

In Ashtanga Yoga we typically don’t use props. However, when trying to work on Marichyasana D, 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 D.

Yoga block

A yoga block can be very helpful when working on modifications for Marichyasana D. More specifically, we can sit on the block to help protect the lower back, and work on hip opening variations as shown below.

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 D, 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.

Related Questions

How many marichyasana poses are there in Ashtanga yoga?

There are four Marichyasana poses in Ashtanga yoga. These are Marichyasana A which is a forward fold with a bind, B which is a forward fold with one leg in lotus, C, which is a twisting pose, and D which is a twisting pose with one leg in lotus and is considered to be the most challenging of all.

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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