Bharadvaja's Twist, also known as "Bharadvajasana", is an easy twist and one the first ones to learn for releasing tension in the spine and promoting circulation in the abdominal organs.
(Pronounced as "bah-ruhd-VA-JAHS-anna")
Bharadvaja was an ancient Vedic sage and the father of Drona, the military master who taught both the Pandavas and Kauravas how to fight when they were young in the Mahabharata epic.
Sit on the ground and extend both of your legs straight out in front of you. Lean on your left buttock and bend both of your knees so that your ankles rest on the floor next to your right hip. Arrange your feet into a cross shape where the left foot is on the bottom lying horizontally and the right ankle lies on top of the arch of your left foot. The toes of your right foot should point straight back behind you. Do not sit on the heel of your left foot! Instead, adjust your feet to make sure that you can press your right buttocks all the way down to the floor without sitting on your heel.
Press both of your sitting bones, or ischial tuberosities, down to make full contact with the floor. As you prepare to twist, pressing down equally on both sitting bones will stop you from leaning too much to either side so that you twist evenly.
Now breathe in, using the breath to pull your chest up straight and lengthen your spine. Then exhale as you turn to the left, putting your right hand under your left knee so that your fingers can press down into the floor. Let your belly relax.
Inhale and press your right forearm against your knee, using it as leverage to turn further to the left. Keep looking over your left shoulder at a distant point directly behind your back. Press your left palm into the floor directly behind the center of your back, which keeps your spine straight and lifted. Always sit up straight while inhaling. Turn deeper on your long exhalations.
If you're more flexible, then you can stretch deeper into the twist by bending your left arm and reaching behind your back with your left hand to grab your right elbow. Once you've twisted yourself as far as you can, hold the pose for at least 30 seconds or up to a minute. Use your hands to maintain the twist, pressing both of your sitting bones back down into the floor to keep your chest lifted up straight and evenly at all times.
Come out of the pose by twisting back to the front again on a long exhalation. Now bring both legs straight out in front of you again. Repeat these steps on the other side. Hold the pose for the same amount of time on both sides.
Do not perform this pose if you're suffering from:
If you have knee or ankle problems, then do an easier variation of this pose on a chair.
Sit sideways on a strong chair without wheels that has a firm, flat seat. Position yourself so that the chair back faces your right shoulder. Both of your feet rest flat on the floor directly under your knees with your knees touching.
As you exhale, twist to the right and grab the sides of the back of the chair in your hands. Press your feet down into the floor as you pull yourself into the twist with your hands, keeping your spine straight.
If you can't reach your arm behind your back for the deeper twist, then put a belt around the straightened arm with the hand resting under the knee. You can grab the other end of the belt with your other hand and slowly pull your hand behind your back more and more over time, increasing your range of movement.
Straighten your legs on the floor in front of you. Place your left leg next to your left hip in Virasana (Hero Pose). Put your right leg in Padmasana (Lotus Pose), supporting your right knee if you have discomfort. Twist to your right and grab your right knee using your left hand. Twist further, pushing your right arm behind your back to grab your right foot, using a belt is you can't reach it.
A partner can help you learn to put balanced pressure on your opposite-side buttock. Ask them to press down on the top your thigh when it starts popping up as you twist.
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