When is the last time you consciously engaged in a loving act toward yourself? Practicing love for yourself – just the way you are – more deeply connects you to the God of your heart. And after all, that is the purpose of Yoga – to cultivate peace within. When you have that, you can find peace in any situation.
If you’re looking to bring in more self-love (and who isn’t?), add in a twist, like marichyasana C, or sage pose, to your practice. Think of this as showing your spine and nervous system that you care. The twist itself can be looked at like a hug, one that connects you to your body, grounds you to the earth and trains you to take in moderate, even breaths by softening the diaphragm.
Many students push and pull into marichyasana C by trying to twist too far, too soon. This causes them to lean unnaturally into their spine and often pulls on joints rather than using the muscles. Loving yourself means working with where you are right now, so take the time to practice consciousness in this pose. That will allow space for gentleness and relaxation into a natural and comfortable opening in your chest and a spiraling of your extended spine.
Like all asana, alignment is key in marichyasana C. As you practice this pose, tune in to your body – is the foot of your bent knee hip-width distance from your straight leg? Is your spine extended? Are you lifting up from your pubic bone through your spine? And most importantly, are you breathing? Whenever your breath has stopped, in this pose or any other, you are agitating your nervous system instead of sending it the love it needs. Back off and come into the pose with greater awareness by following your breath.
Here at Hale Pule, we talk about asana with three designations: essence, anchor and strength. This is a simple tool to remember the intention of the pose, where your body is grounded and the muscles you engage for proper alignment. These components will support optimal energy flow and a sustainable practice throughout your life.
Marichyasana C from the ground up
As you practice this twist on both sides, you may find that one side of your body is more flexible than the other. Breathe into the areas of restriction.
1. Sit on your mat with your legs extended, hip-width distance apart. Pull the fleshy parts of your buttocks straight back if you like; this helps bring your pelvis upright and slightly forward. Keep your knees and toes pointed straight up.
2. Bend your left knee and bring your left heel across from the inside of your right knee, hip-width distance. Flex your right foot and engage the lower part of your right thigh, lifting the kneecap. Interlace your hands on the front of your bent knee and use the strength of your arms to lift your pelvis upright and extend the spine. Actively press into the ball and heel of the left foot and maintain this through the rest of the pose.
3. Exhale as you move forward and to the left into a spiral around your spine. As you do so, let your hands slide to the outside of your left knee until the palm of your right hand rests on the side of your left knee. Keep your right leg and foot active. Continue to press your left foot into the mat and use that and your arms for gentle leverage. Keep your chest spread and shoulders open (there is a tendency to collapse the shoulder inward here – see our trouble spots below). Gently turn your face and eyes to look in the direction of your twist. Hold for 15 to 25 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Common trouble spots
Foot too close to body. The heel of your bent leg should be aligned with the knee of your straight leg. This provides space for the torso and will allow you to work into deeper variations over time. If your legs are tight (indicated by difficulty bringing your pelvis upright), slide your foot away from your buttocks until you can bring your pelvis upright and extend your spine.
Foot placed directly against the straight leg. Be sure the foot of your bent leg is in line with your hip. This alignment tip allows more space to progress in the twist.
Straight leg not engaged. Keep the foot of your straight leg flexed and your muscles engaged.
Hands on the front of the knee. Guide your spine into a spiral by moving your palms to the side of your knee. They should rest on the side of your knee.
Collapsing the shoulder. It may feel that you are twisting more when you collapse your shoulder into your chest or pull back on the shoulder going into the twist, but keeping your chest and shoulders open will allow you to move into this twist with greater alignment and less strain.
Upper arm jammed into the side of the torso. Allow space between your upper arm and body to find your place for your twist.
Leaning back in the pose. Instead, come slightly forward toward your bent leg to find more support for your spine.
Chin dropped. Avoid strain and allow free flow of prana by keeping your head and neck in their natural placement.
Crossing the foot over the straight leg. This modification is often taught in modern asana classes, but crossing your foot over your straight leg overstretches your outer hip and does not provide space to progress to deeper forms of this twist.