A perfect pose for transitioning to a new year!
I love a good twist, but this seated pose is a twofer! You twist in two directions at once in Bharadvajasana I!
The month of January is named for Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, passages and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. At a time when we often reflect on the previous year and resolve to make changes in the coming year, it’s an apt symbol.
Things to Remember
- Every twist relies on a long spine, so as we approach this double twist, continue to lengthen from tailbone to crown.
- Once you have made your way into the pose, maintain that lengthened spine, as well as an open chest. Try not to let gravity collapse your chest.
- Your pelvis will be tilted in Bharadvajasana I, and if that’s uncomfortable for you, I’ll offer you some support as we set up the pose.
None are required. However, you may utilize the following props if you find you need some support:
- A blanket or two
- One or more blocks
We’ll start by sitting in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose). (Follow the link if you need a refresher on this seated pose that we’ll use to prepare for Bharadvajasana I.
Kneel with your knees hip-width apart and your lower legs and feet extending straight back (not angled).
Sit back on your heels if you can. If that isn’t possible, move your hips back toward your heels, bringing them as close as possible, even if they don’t make contact.
Now, shift your hips to the right, and rest your right sitting bone on the floor. Your left sitting bone will likely be off the floor, and your hips will be angled down from left to right.
If sitting in this position is uncomfortable for you, you can place a folded blanket under your right sitting bone and elevate the right side of your pelvis, bringing it more into balance with the left. You could also use a block if you don’t have a blanket handy.
Position your feet
Let your inner left ankle rest on the right medial arch. Put another way, your left inner ankle nestles into the arch of your right foot. Your feet may naturally come into this position if you start Bharadvajasana I from Vajrasana.
This may also let your knees offset. Let them separate as much as you need to make this more comfortable.
Place your right hand on the floor beside your right hip and walk it gradually behind your hip. This will begin the rotation of your torso. You can also place your right hand on a block at any height that works for you if you feel the need for a little support. This may also help bring the spine into a more vertical position.
Once your right hand is in position, bring your left hand to your right knee. Externally rotate your left arm so that your left palm faces away from your right knee. This will likely result in a slight increase in the twist and an emphasis on broadening the chest.
Gently press downward with each hand, allowing the sternum and sides of the chest to lift a little more. Make sure the shoulders relax, dropping away from the ears. Allow your head to continue the rotation until you’re looking more toward your right shoulder.
Sidebar: Full disclosure
At this point, I assume you have more or less settled into the twist, maybe with some assistance from props. Let’s put the finishing touches on Bharadvajasana I.
As you continue to spiral to the right, you can make one more adjustment. Gradually rotate your head to look toward your left shoulder. This counterrotation in the upper spine can be delightful, as long as your neck is comfortable in this position. If it feels like the neck muscles are straining or tensing, you can omit this aspect of the pose and return to your gaze to the right.
I’m going to pause for a moment for a quick confession: I used to dislike Bharadvajasana I. It was difficult to keep my torso from collapsing and the twist from feeling forced. Here’s what I discovered, and I hope this helps you find a little more ease in this pose.
One day, as I was
forcing ENCOURAGING myself to spend some time in this pose, I realized that the best way to approach Bharadvajasana I is to view it as spiraling the upper body away from the lower body. Even though we want the spine to be primarily vertical, if you can see yourself rotating the ribcage and chest AND lifting them simultaneously, you’ll open up space in the side waist. That’s where I used to experience a kind of pinching in the side closest to my feet. By spiraling, I found more length in that pesky side waist and more overall satisfaction in the pose.
One last thing…
If you’re willing to explore just a little bit more, try this. As you counterrotate your head and neck to the left, emphasize the lift in your sternum and release your left ear toward your feet. Your head will drop back a bit, providing a delicious stretch through the right side of your neck.
This final aspect of the pose always reminds me of a Hollywood glamour shot (channel your inner Veronica Lake!) or Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World. So go ahead, get a little glam (or arty) in your last few moments in Bharadvajasana I! And don’t forget to repeat the pose on the left side.
Lindel Hart teaches yoga online for PerfectFit Wellness. He lives in Western Massachusetts and teaches at Deerfield Academy, a private residential high school, as well as at Community Yoga and Wellness in Greenfield, MA. Visit his website, Hart Yoga.