Twisting poses in yoga stretch and lengthen the spine, calm the nervous system, and help detoxify the body. Most yoga classes include at least some twisting poses because they offer so many great benefits. Bharadvaja's Twist — called "Bharadvajasana I" (bah-RAHD-vah-JAHS-uh-nuh) in Sanskrit — is a simple seated position that is suitable for most people, including beginners. It's named after the ancient Indian sage, Bharadvaja. He was a wise seer who is believed to have composed hymns that were later collected in ancient scriptures called the Vedas, around 1500 BCE. This pose is sometimes called, "Pose Dedicated to the Sage Bharadvaja."
Practicing this twist can help re-balance your body from head to toe, inside and out. It can calm your mind and allow you to feel more peaceful — which might have been how Bharadvaja felt when composing his hymns!
Benefits of Bharadvajasana
Bharadvajasana stretches the spine, torso, shoulders, and hips. It is a belly-open pose, which makes it a safe twist for women who are pregnant. Twisting your torso in this pose massages and positively stimulates the organs of your torso, which improves digestion, regulates metabolism, and aids the organs in detoxification. Bharadvajasana also helps to relieve lower back pain, neck pain, and sciatica.
Like all twists in yoga, Bharadvajasana helps to relieve stress by "squeezing out" the anxiety and negative emotions of daily life, just like wringing out a sponge. It restores balance and equanimity to mind, body, and spirit — leaving the practitioner in a calmer, more graceful state of mind, even off the mat.
Yoga teaches a person to live in harmony, where there is a balance within themselves, and in their emotions and their intellect.
Head of Indian Council of Medical Research for Advanced Research in Yoga and Neurophysiology
Avoid practicing this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to your knees, hips, or spine. Those with back pain, back injuries, or degenerative disk disease should approach this pose with caution and should only attempt to practice it under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor. Also avoid this pose if you are currently experiencing high or low blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, or diarrhea. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, arms resting at your sides. This is Staff Pose (Dandasana).
- Shift your weight to your right buttock. Bend your knees and bring your legs to the left. Rest your legs on the floor and place your left inner ankle in the arch of your right foot.
- On an inhalation, lengthen your spine as long as you can. Exhaling, twist your upper torso to the right. Place your right hand on the floor behind your body, and rest your left hand on your outer right thigh. Turn your left palm up.
- Press down through your left sit bone. If your left hip is lifting off the floor, place a folded, firm blanket or folded yoga mat beneath your right sit bone to re-gain balance.
- Draw your shoulder blades down your back and in toward your back ribs. There will be a slight backbend in your upper back, but do not force it. Twist around your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
- On each inhalation, lengthen your spine; and on each exhalation, twist deeper.
- Turn your head to gaze over your right shoulder.
- Hold for up to one minute.
- To release, exhale and unwind your torso. Come back to center and extend both legs in front of you in Staff Pose again. Repeat the twist for the same length of time on the opposite side.
Modifications & Variations
This pose is suitable for most beginners, but remember to take it slowly and only go as deeply into the twist as it feels safe. To deepen or lighten the pose, try these simple changes to find a variation that works best for you:
- If your body tilts onto the buttock of the side into which you are twisting, prop it up on a blanket or folded yoga mat. If you are twisting to the right, place the padding under your right buttock. Tilting can compress the lower back, but raising the sinking side will help rebalance your weight distribution.
- For variety in the neck stretch, you can either turn your head in the direction of the twist, or in the opposite direction. Gaze softly at the horizon with either variation.
- For a deeper twist (when twisting to the right), bring your right hand behind your body and clasp your inner left elbow. As you twist deeper, allow the pressure of your forearm against your body massage your back muscles and kidneys. Do the exact opposite when twisting to the left.
- If your hips are extremely tight, practice this pose seated in a chair. Sit sideways, so the back of the chair is to your right. Keep both feet flat on the floor and your heels directly below your knees. Exhale and twist to the right, and hold onto both sides of the chair back. Release back to center. Then change your position so the chair back is to your left, and repeat the twist on the opposite side.
- Experienced students can practice Bharadvajasana II by placing the left foot in Hero Pose (Virasana) and the right foot in Lotus Pose (Padmasana). Clasp the right knee with the left hand, then reach behind the body and take hold of the right foot with the right hand. Repeat on the opposite side.
Bharadvajasana can add variety and detoxifying benefits to your regular yoga practice. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep the back of your neck soft. Let your head balance gently over your spine, and allow it to be the last part of your spine to turn. Never lead the twist with your head.
- Let your belly be soft throughout the twist.
- Keep your buttocks grounded throughout the pose.
- Allow your pelvis to turn gently with the twist.
- Do not rush the pose. Move with your breath. Lengthen your spine on the inhalations, and gently rotate deeper on the exhalations.
- Perform the twist to the right first. Twisting your upper torso to the right will place pressure on the ascending colon. Twisting to the left places pressure on the descending colon. This right-left order stimulates digestion and detoxification. Reversing the sequence and pressing on the descending colon first may cause aggravation, constipation, bloating, and intestinal discomfort.
Squeeze It Out
A yoga practice that includes twists can help you re-gain balance, ease, and calmness in your life. By stretching and lengthening your spine, you'll gain energy and feel renewed. By massaging your abdominal organs, you'll more easily release physical toxins and negative emotions. Add some twists to your day to feel renewed and full of life!