The Legends Behind The Poses

Maricyasana is named after the sage Marichi
Karen Smith

In the last issue I looked at the warrior Virabhadra, here I shall focus on the person behind Maricyasana. Maricyasana is a seated twist which has four variations. The pose begins by bending the leg so that the heel is close to the perineum. In the first variation, the body twists so that the chest faces the outstretched leg and in the third variation is faces away. The second and fourth variations resemble the first and third, except here the straight leg is bent into half Padmasana. The Maricyasana variations increase levels of energy in the body; tone and massage the abdominal organs; and reduce fat around the waistline. Maricyasana is named after the sage Marichi. A sage is a wise man or woman, an expert, an authority, a guru; I like to think of him in a seated position, twisting his body to impart his wisdom to those who came to him for advice.

Marichi was the son of Brahma, the divine creator. Having created heaven and earth, Brahma went on to conceptualise and create seven sons (Mansaputras), of which Mar?chi was one. Marichi literally means a ray of light from either the moon or the sun, and Marichi was to be the chief of the Maruts 'the shining ones'.

Marichi went on to have his own children. His son, Kashypapa, was known as the 'Lord of Creatures'; his grandson was the sun god Surya, the giver of life who is the god to whom Surya Namaskara (a salutation including Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, and Chaturanga Dandasana) is dedicated; and his great-grandson was Manu, the father of humanity. The first three letters of Manu are man which is a Sanskrit root meaning 'to think', and it is this same Sanskrit root that gave birth to the English word man.

The following story gives a taste of Marichi's character.  One day Marichi went to the forest to collect wood and flowers and returned to his home extremely tired. He called to his wife, Dharmavrata, and told her that she was to wash his feet for him. Just as Dharmavrata began to wash her husband's feet, Brahma arrived.  Dharmavrata did not know what she should do, should she continue to wash her husband's feet, or turn her attentions to Brahma, who was Marichi's father. She chose the latter and suffered the wrath of her husband. Marichi became extremely angry and put a curse on his wife, turning her into a stone. Dharmavrata was naturally upset by this, believing that she was being punished unnecessarily. As a reaction to this, Dharmavrata began many years of meditation which were noticed by Lord Visnu who, impressed by her devotion, granted her a wish. All Dharmavrata wanted was to have Marichi's curse lifted. Unfortunately, Marichi was such a powerful sage that this was impossible to do. Instead, Dharmavrata was transformed into a holy stone, which was desired by all gods.

Judging by this story, Marichi was not a particularly savoury character, but his position as a great sage and his status as the Sun God's grandfather and the great-grandfather of the human race's progenitor undeniably make him a key figure in Indian Mythology and may well explain why such a powerful, energy-giving lateral twist bears his name.

This article was published in the ESIYI Iyengar Institute Newsletter Issue 8 January 2009




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