There are myths behind many poses done in yoga. There’s a great book called Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij that tells many of the stories. This is a recap of the myth behind bharadvarasa, a deep seated twist, shown here:
Bharadvaja was a student dedicated to study of the Vedas (ancient spiritual and philosophical texts). The Vedas encompass a vast body of knowledge, more than any one person could ever hope to know. Bharadvaja, however, made it his goal to master the Vedas, reading them, writing them out, committing them to memory. He spent an entire lifetime in this practice. When he was reborn, Bharadvaja began once again with this sort of intense study of the Vedas. He felt that all this study would bring him closer to a higher power. Once again he died having lived his life entirely focused on study.
Bharadvaja was reborn and went back to studying the spiritual texts in the hope of stopping the cycle of death and rebirth. He became known for his reclusiveness and for being a wise sage. No one had ever seen him because he spent his days and nights in study. He was certainly the most accomplished expert on the Vedas. At the end of his third lifetime in study, Bharadvaja was visited by Shiva. He thought that finally he was to be liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth because of his dedication to study. He was in for a shock.
Shiva was disappointed. He asked Bharadvaja what he was doing. Bharadvaja told him he was dying and asked whether Shiva was there to take him. Shiva explained that he hadn’t yet learned his lesson. Bharadvaja told Shiva that he studied for three lifetimes in the hopes of getting closer to Shiva. Shiva reached out of the window and grabbed a handful of dirt. Placing it on the floor, he told Bharadvaja “what you have learned in this lifetime is no more than this.” Reaching through the window a second time and grabbing another handful of dirt, he said “and this is what you learned in your first lifetime.” Reaching out a third time, he placed another handful of dirt next to the others and said “and this is what you learned in your second lifetime. You certainly know more about the Vedas than anyone else, but it is only a handful compared to the mountain of knowledge left to be learned. You live alone, with no joy and you’ve shared your knowledge with no one. You know the Vedas, but not their true meaning. It is in the sharing that the Vedas will truly come alive inside of you.” Shiva made a promise to Bharadvaja that if he spent one more lifetime trying to get close to him, that it would be his last lifetime.
Bharadvaja spent this fourth lifetime teaching. He was known far and wide for his compassion and knowledge. People from all different classes were proud to call him their teacher. On his deathbed, students from all over came to pay homage to him. Even Shiva came to pay his respects. Shiva told Bharadvaja that he finally learned his lesson and that if he wished it he could be free of the cycle of death and rebirth. Bharadvaja was very grateful, but declined the offer telling Shiva “there is no one who resides more fully in my heart than you, but now I know that I can never be closer to you than when I share moments of joy with others and by connecting to them through spiritual texts.” Shiva was very proud of bharadvaja and he left his bedside. Bharadvaja left his body and was reborn to be one of the greatest sages ever known.
This story teaches us that when we find the source of our joy it is our duty to share it with others. This doesn’t mean that we try to convince others to be joyful, rather we live the lessons we have been taught and in living this way we set an example that can inspire others to find the source of their own joy. Many people spend a lot of time doing something that makes them unhappy or focusing on a goal so hard that they miss the point. If we take the wisdom of this story to heart, we know we must live fully, find our passion and share it with others.
To take bharadvajasana, start with the legs extended out front. Swing them to one side with feet on the floor outside one hip. You can stop here and twist or you can bring the foot you are twisting toward into half lotus wit the foot on the upper thigh as shown in the above picture. Whenever twisting think about making space through all of your vertebrae as you inhale, stretching the spine upward. As you exhale twist . Try to keep your shoulder blades firmly planted onto your back, this will help to keep you from twisting too far. Pay attention to your body- be comfortable in your twist and keep breathing. Going too far can result in injury so you must practice ahimsa here. A modification for this pose it shown here: