Bharadvajasana is one of those weird and wacky poses that I absolutely love. The first time I did this pose I thought, ‘What the heck—?! Who thought this one up?!’
Of course, no one actually THOUGHT bharadvajasana up, if you subscribe to the belief (and I do) that asana evolved from the lived experience of energy moving in the body of yogis in higher states of consciousness. I’ve personally had this experience myself more than once. Not that I live in a heightened state of consciousness all the time, but I’ve had moments of deep connection (such as during rebirthing or deep Kripalu meditation-in-motion sessions) where the prana in my body moved me into spontaneous asanas.
So it’s easy for me to believe that poses like bharadvasjasana flowed from a pranic experience of some yogi or yogini on a mountaintop somewhere. However, you can decide for yourself where you land on that.
Since most of us don’t hang out regularly in a Himalayan state of mind, and most yogi practitioners have some amount of hip tightness due to our seated lifestyles, the entry into bharadvajasana needs a little preparation.
The pose includes two different leg rotations at the same time. As Paul Grilley has stated in his work, each of us tends to be either in the camp of inward rotators or outward rotators—but usually not both.
What that means functionally is that each student’s weakness will show up as either an inability to achieve a comfortable half lotus (tight on the outer rotation) on one side, or will be unable to get the sitz bone to drop securely down to the floor on the other side (tight on the inner rotation side).
And of course it’s possible to be unable to do either rotation comfortably, in which case I’d work to restore more range of motion in the hips first or using multiple props for comfort in this pose.
It’s useful then to work both rotations in class prior to introducing bharadvajasana so that both sets of students can work on their less dominate rotation.
Bharadvajasana is dedicated to sage Bharadvāja who was one of the Saptarshis (Seven Great Sages or Rishis); the others being Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Kashyapa.
Bharadvāja was also the father of Drona who was a master of advanced military arts and the royal guru to Kauravas, Pandavas and the Devastras, the princes who fought the great war which is the subject of the Mahābhārata (see wikipedia on bharadvajasana for more info).
To me this pose reminds me of Mother India itself. Where else can you find so much going on all at once! The first time I went to India I could not believe what a circus it was. And I mean that in the nicest way.
In fact, I have so much fondness for the craziness that is India that I never fail to read this introductory passage from the Lonely Planet’s India Guidebook when I teach about the Yoga Sutras, born from this amazing country:
India is nothing like this guidebook. A true guidebook to India should mimic the experience of being there. The book would have a brilliant orange and green cover, with several letters transposed on the title, the pages inserted upside down.
The numbering in the table of contents should be slightly off, according to no discernible pattern. Certain chapter listings should have no corresponding text; conversely, certain crucial chapters should not be listed in the table of contents at all.
As you flip through the pages, your room should fill with the scent of sandalwood, camphor and cow dung, and echo with Sanskrit chanting mixed with the brash two-note warble of truck horns.
Information should be vague and sometimes purely invented; contradictory facts should be asserted, with supreme authority, as both being true. Peacock feathers and sacred ash should mysteriously materialize between the pages. the authors should be credited with multiple honorific titles and degrees from specious universities. The price of the book should be fixed at several times its value, but vendors should be encouraged to bargain.
…in short, the entire book should evoke an experience of intense irritation and frustration; but you should find yourself enchanted and unable to put it down.
This guidebook is more conventional. This book attempts to impose order on what is inevitably chaotic. It aims to give you the illusion—as you pack your bags and purchase your tickets—that you know where you are going. The illusion, we say – because a spiritual journey to India is inevitably a swan dive into the unknown.
Bharadvajasana is a little like this, as mystifying as it is profound.
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