June is the month of the summer solstice, an auspicious time of change and the beginning of my favourite season. I thrive with light and warmth; I am very grateful to the sun. The sun has wonderful archetypal references in yoga. After all, we tend to start our practice saluting it, but its connections go much, much deeper.
I struggle with the Marichyasana poses. I am still somewhere in that journey between frustration and letting go, binding, twisting, coming forward with the mind and the body. And breathing, of course. These poses have it all – they are called gateways in the primary series. Sometimes, though, I have wondered why they are there, and what do they do.
After my weekend with James Boag exploring the sun, I think the Marichyasanas might be related to it. Usually they are linked to Marichy, Brahma’s son and a sage, but James told us the story of Maricha, and I understood something of that pose. Maricha is a rakshasa, a demon, in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. He terrorised yogis, ate human flesh and drank the blood of those he killed. He encountered Rama, Vishnu’s avatar, and underestimated him, thinking he was just a boy, so he terrorised him in a sacred site and was thrown to the other side of the world by one of Rama’s single arrows. The second time he met Rama, he sought revenge and attacked him again. Rama shot three arrows, killing the demons that were with Maricha, but sparing him. This prompted Maricha to transform into a saintly person, the one we might embody in the asanas.
Marichy means ray of light, but also mirage. It is the ability the sun has of allowing us to see round the corner, where there might be darkness, where we might not even know what there is (like when we rotate that arm to bind or twist to look round …) It is also the ability to discriminate, to see what is real and what is not. This skill — and many others the sun embodies — is within each of us. The only thing we need to do is to keep practicing.