Pose of the Week: Marichyasana 3

This week’s pose is Marichyasana 3. It is a seated twist named after the Sage Marichi, the son of Brahma. Marichi is one of the seven lords of creation who sprang from the mind of Lord Brahma to help oversee the complicated construction process of the universe. He was an intuitive seer. Marichi literally means a ray of light either from the moon or the sun. Asana = pose/posture.

Image: BKS Iyengar in Marichyasana 3 in Light on Yoga

When you first learn seated twists, you are asked to sit up on ‘some height’. This means to take a prop to sit on, such as a folded blanket, a block or a foam pad. This helps to create more lift up from the base of the pose, so the spine can lift. The turning required in Marichyasana 3 can only come when the spine is well-lifted. The purpose of practising yoga asanas is to promote an extended, supple, and therefore, healthy spine. Our spine deteriorates as we age and this affects not just our muscles but also our organs. So our overall health is affected.

Image: Practicing Marichyasana 3 with the support of a foam pad

The development of props was through Mr Iyengar’s ingenious experimentation. He was different from the teachers who came before him as he looked (with intensity!) at what was happening in the bodies and minds of the students who were in front of him. He ponded, and experimented, with diligence, methods for the average bod to access the asana. This employed the use of blocks or bricks, planks, barrels, belts, blankets, benches, mats, the wall, wall ropes and more.

Image: Practicing Marichyasana 3 without support

As you can see from the photos above Mr Iyengar is sitting on the floor, without any props at all. In fact, in almost all of the photos in Light on Yoga there are no props used. The props came later when he discerned that most people aren’t able to lift the spine well in seated asanas, mainly due to tight hamstrings caused by a more sedentary way of life.

The prop provides support. The support gives the opportunity to find a degree of ease, a place where our mind doesn’t have to continuously struggle. You come to a state of observation. Just as Sutra 2.46 states Sthira sukham asanam, the pose should be practiced with steadiness, awareness and delight. And when the wandering mind is restrained and regulated a reflective state of being is experienced (Commentary of Sutra 1.3 BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, p.52) at other times, we are distracted by our sensory perceptions.

See you on the mat 🙂

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