Pose Library

Marichyasana: Ray of light

Pronounced: mah-ree-chee-YAH-suh-nuh

Sage Pose, First Variation

Ever heard of “asana greed”? It’s the sense of wanting more from a pose—to nail a handstand, conquer an arm balance, or slide further into the splits. Isn’t it funny that many of us started yoga to get out of achieving mode, only to find ourselves doggedly pursuing yoga to-do lists?

If “asana greed” has you in its grip, a good place to face it is during a forward bend. Since we’ve convinced ourselves that progress means bending deeper, we often end up overpulling with our arms. What we love about Marichyasana is that with our hands clasped behind our backs, we are essentially protected from our own greed. Because we can only deepen our fold with the strength of our core and legs, the pose is a reflection of our “true flexibility”—the amount we can stretch without force.  

Meaning “Ray of Light,” the name Marichyasana refers to the light that emanates from both the sun and the moon. When practicing the first variation of the pose, we have an opportunity to illuminate the truth; to reflect on things not as we’d like them to be, but how they really are. That way, when we do reach for something, we become like a ray of light, shining our way forward from an authentic place of strength. 

To Practice Marichyasana:

  1. Begin seated in a comfortable position, extending the spine tall.
  2. Draw the right knee up into your chest placing the sole of the foot flat on the floor while the knee points to the ceiling. The foot should be placed slightly right of center, so the chest points forward unblocked.
  3. Keep the chest lifted as you extend the left foot forward, straightening the left leg flat on the floor in front of you. Flex actively through both sides of the foot, and press down through the inner edges of the leg, this will engage the leg muscles.
  4. You may stay here or continue by reaching both arms directly forward in front of you. The right arm extends in front of and inside of the right bent leg.
  5. Once you have reached as far forward as possible, bend at the elbows and wrap both arms directly behind you, ultimately clasping the hands behind you.
  6. With the hand clasped, inhale to elongate your spine, and exhale to reach your body forward, aiming your chest toward your thigh. Lengthen the back of the neck, pointing the face slightly downward.
  7. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Gently release. Repeat side 2.

Modifications and Variations:

There are many ways to modify Marichyasana. If your hips or lower back are tight, you can place a folded blanket under your sit bones before you begin. As stated above, you will also get tremendous benefit from simply folding the knee into your chest, sitting up tall, and pressing through the left leg. Next, if your arms don’t reach far enough to clasp behind you, grab a strap, making it as short as it can be. Lastly, please feel free to skip the forward bend entirely.

There are many variations of Marichyasana. In this first variation, called “Marichyasana A,” once the hands can clasp comfortably, the next step is for the left hand to take hold of the right wrist for a tighter fold. Moving along in the Ashtanga series, there are actually four variations of Marichyasana, this one being the first. You can find full Ashtanga, Mysore practices on Glo.


If you have sensitive lower back, knee, hamstring, or shoulder issues, please practice with caution.

If you’d like to explore Marichyasana, try:

Yin and Yang Yoga: https://bit.ly/32hn9mg
Rinse Cycle: https://bit.ly/2zBy8dT
More Mobility: https://bit.ly/2ZtPIzS
Unravel the Spine: https://bit.ly/2NIdDEu
When You Need a Good Stretch: https://bit.ly/2MM27by
Wake Your Body: https://bit.ly/2HyhJve

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