Bharadvajasana I and Bharadvajasana II: Instructions and Modifications
A seated twist that is most commonly practiced in Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, Bharadvajasana is named after a Hindu Sage, Bharadvaja. In Sanskrit, Bharadvaja means "to bring nourishment." This feels very appropriate because this seated yoga twist is nourishing for the spine and for all of our internal organs. The story is that Bharadvaja spent most of his life studying Vedic texts. A perpetual student, Bharadvaja was always eager to learn and sought out information. He then took what he'd learned and taught it to large groups of people. I think the takeaway from that on the mat is that we can appreciate the patience and commitment to practice that we find in the progressions of Bharadvajasana.
There are two stages of Bharadvajasana that we will cover, Bharadvajasana I and Bharadvajasana II. While both postures share many of the same benefits, Bharadvajasana II pulls in Ardha Virasana (Half Hero's Pose), Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose) and a bind.
Shared Benefits of Bharadvajasana I and Bharadvajasana II
- Lengthens the spine
- Stretches and strengthens muscles supporting the spine
- Increases shoulder flexibility
- Tones the core
- Improves digestion
- Releases tension in the lower body
How to Do Bharadvajasana I
- Start in Staff Pose with both legs extended long in front of you. Lengthen through the crown of the head and sit up nice and tall. Notice if you need a blanket or some support underneath to help you get the length in the spine.
- Bend the knees and swing the legs to the right, pulling the heels outside of the right hip. My teacher always said it's like the right leg comes into Hero Pose and the left comes into Easy Pose. The knees will naturally move towards the earth, but you can always put blankets underneath to pad them.
- On an inhale, grow tall through the crown of the head, lengthening the spine.
- On an exhale, twist to look out over the left shoulder.
- The right hand comes onto the left knee.
- On an inhale, grow tall through the crown of the head. As you exhale, start to walk the left fingers around the back reaching for the right bicep. If it makes sense for your body, you can hold on to the right arm with the left hand. Otherwise, grab the back of a shirt or whatever is in reach.
- Continue to lengthen on inhales and twist on exhales. Turn the gaze out over the left shoulder and hold the posture for a few breaths before releasing and practicing on the other side.
Modifications for Bharadvajasana I
Modify Bharadvajasana I With Blankets
Sit on a blanket if the knees are above the hips. This way you have space to find length in the spine.
Modify Bharadvajasna I With a Strap
Use a strap if that helps to make the bind. To do this, you can loop the strap around the bicep and reach behind the back with the other hand to grab the edge of the strap. Walk the hand as close up the strap as feels right for you.
Modify Bharadvajasna I Using a Chair
You can always take this juicy twist in a chair and get the same benefits.
How to Do Bharadvajasana II
Start in Staff Pose with both legs extended long in front of you. Lengthen through the crown of the head and sit up nice and tall. Notice if you need a blanket or some support underneath to help you get the length in the spine.
Start to bend the right leg and bring the right leg into Ardha Virasana (Half Hero's Pose). So the right heel comes outside of the right hip and the right shin is grounded. Notice if you need any blankets for support in this space.
From here, the left leg comes into Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose). The left knee bends and the edge of the left foot comes into the crease of the right hip. Release any tension from the hips and allow the knee to move towards the earth. Check in with yourself and notice if you need any blankets for support.
Inhale to grow long through the crown of the head, lengthening the spine.
As you exhale, start to wrap the left arm around the back, reaching the left hand towards the left foot. The left hand may or may not reach the left foot. If it doesn't, no big deal. You can always grab onto the back of your shirt. If the left hand finds the left foot, the left hand will clasp onto the left foot for a bind.
The right arm extends towards the left and the back of the right hand comes onto the outer edge of the left knee. If you still have space to move, you may even tuck the right hand underneath the left knee.
Continue to lengthen on the inhale, continue to rotate on the exhale. The gaze is out over the left shoulder. Hold the posture for a few breaths before releasing and practicing on the other side.
Modifications for Bharadvajasana II
Modify Bharadvajasana II Sitting on Blanket
You can always sit on a blanket to get the hips a little higher so you have space to lengthen the spine and come into the twist
Modification for Bharadjavasana II With Blankets or Blocks Under Padmasana Knee
If the Padmasana knee does not touch the floor, you can bring blankets or a block underneath that knee. Ultimately, we want to have a downward slope from the hip to the knee so choose the lowest setting that you can while making sure that you feel supported.
Modification for Bharadjavasana II With Blankets Under Sit Bones and Padmasana Knee
If your hips and knees are both tight, you can sit on 3-5 blankets and keep the Padmasana knee on the blankets. The Virasana knee will stay grounded. The key here is to give yourself enough space on the blankets, so sit back far enough to create space for the Padmasana knee and shin.
If the hand doesn't reach the foot for the bind, use a strap. Simply loop the strap around your foot and grab onto the strap with the hand that reaches for the bind.
Modification for Bharadjavasana II Using Strap
The key to Bharadvajasana II is to make sure your foundation is solid. Once your lower body is grounded and supported, you're able to find space to lengthen the spine and come into the twist.
Contraindications for Bharadvajasana I and II
- Knee injury
- Hip injury
- Spinal injury
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