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Bharadvaja’s Twist

Bharadvaja's Twist, or Bharadvajasana in Sanskrit, is a gentle and loving twist that inspires postural and body awareness.

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Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Twist) is a seated pose that strengthens and stretches your spine, neck, and shoulders.

It’s important to avoid doing this pose “head first”—in other words, tightening the muscles at the back of your neck, which can lead to headaches, upper back tension, and fatigue, says Denise Benitez, founder of Seattle Yoga Arts. To test your head’s position, lift it upright and place the palm of one hand across the muscles at the back of your neck. If they’re hard and taut, bring your head back without lifting your chin. You’ll feel the muscles at the back of your neck soften.

To lessen the burden this posture places on your back and sacroiliac joints (they link your pelvis and lower spine), fold a blanket into quarters and position one corner of it so that it’s facing your right hip. Sit on the blanket with your right buttock, leaving your left buttock elevated off of the mat.

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Bharadvajasana (bah-ROD-va-JAHS-anna)

Bharadvaja = one of seven legendary seers, credited with composing the hymns collected in the Vedas

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Bharadvaja’s Twist Basics

Pose Type: Twist

Targets: Core

Benefits: Bharadvaja’s Twist improves postural and body awareness and can help stimulate proper digestion by facilitating movement through the digestive tract (peristalsis). This pose may help relieve constipation through the benefits of movement and stimulation of the lower abdominal area, and relieve bloating and gas. Bharadvaja’s Twist strengthens your core and particularly the muscles supporting your spine, stretches around your shoulders, your back muscles, front of your thighs (quadriceps), buttocks (glutes), and around your ankles.

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Bharadvaja’s Twist: Step-by-step instructions

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  1. Begin in Staff Pose.
  2. Lean on to your right hip and swing your legs to the left, bending your knees and placing both feet to the outside of your left hip so that your left ankle rests in the arch of your right foot.
  3. Place your left hand under your right knee with your fingers pointed back toward your knee, and take your right hand to the floor behind your right hip.
  4. Inhale and lengthen your spine; exhale and twist your torso, keeping your left sitting bone heavy.
  5. Take your gaze to right, again twisting from your torso.
  6. To exit the pose, exhale and slowly unwind.
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Beginner tip

If you tilt onto the twisting-side buttock, place a thickly folded blanket underneath it. Consciously sink both sitting bones toward the floor.

Explore the pose

You can make this pose more challenging by swinging your right arm around behind your back as you twist to the right. If you can, grip the left arm just at the elbow with the right hand; if you can’t, hold a strap looped around the left elbow. Then turn your left arm outward (so the palm faces away from the knees) and slip the hand under the right knee, with the palm on the floor.

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Teacher tips

These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • Imagine a central axis running through your torso from your pelvic floor to the crown of your head.
  • Emphasize both the length and the integrity of this axis; the column is straight and shouldn’t tilt or curve to one side.
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Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia

Seated Twist

Sit cross-legged, or with legs extended and one crossed over the other, then gently twist to one side.

Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia

Seated Twist in a chair

Sit in a chair with your feet under your knees at hip-distance apart and your thighs parallel to the ground. If you are taller, you may need to sit on folded blankets. If you are shorter, you may need to put folded blankets or blocks under your feet.

Sit up tall, then, gently twist to one side. You can place your hands on the sides of your thighs, the sides of the chair, or the arm rests of the chair (if it has them) for stability. Take several deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.

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Preparatory and Counter Poses

Preparatory Poses

Counter Poses

Put Bharadvaja’s Twist into practice