The asana is dedicated to the sage Bharadvāja who was one of the Seven Great Sages or Rishi; the others were Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Kashyapa. He was the father of Drona, a master of military arts and the royal guru to Kauravas, Pandavas and the Devastras, the princes who fought the great war of the Mahābhārata.
Bharadvājāsana is a basic seated spinal twist. It has three main forms:
- Bharadvājāsana I is the basic form in which the legs articulated as in Vīrāsana dropped to one side one foot on the floor and the other's ankle cradled in the arch of the foot below.
- Bharadvājāsana II is the advanced form requiring high hip mobility in which one leg articulated as in Padmasana (lotus position), while the other leg is articulated as in Vīrāsana (hero pose).
- Bharadvājāsana on chair is a variant performed sitting sideways on an armless chair. This does not require hip mobility; the arms grasp the back of the chair to assist with the twist.
The main action in Bharadvājāsana is spinal rotation towards the leg. The torso is rotated using the paired oblique muscles, one contracting, the other relaxing and being stretched. Thus the ability to perform the twist depends both on the strength of the obliques and their ability to stretch. If ujjayi breath technique is employed all the muscles of the back contribute to rotating the spine.
In Bharadvājāsana, a typical practitioner should expect 5° of rotation in the lumbar spine (yellow); 35° in the thoracic spine (indigo) and 50° in the cervical spine (red). These add up to 90° of spinal rotation between hips and head which may be reached in this twist.  However just trunk rotation has 26 articulation points and if any have a reduced range of motion the others are forced to over-compensate, risking injury.
Reduced mobility in the hips will require the spine to flex forwards. In all but the tightest of hips this can be compensated by sitting on a supporting wedge. If this is insufficient then the pose (or a similar twist like Ardha Matsyendrasana) should be performed sitting on a chair.
To help ground the buttock on the side opposite the twist (e.g. when twisting right the left buttock may cause the spine to more out of alignment). The adjuster standing on the student's left side should place the left foot on the top of the student's left thigh with the inner edge of the foot in the hip crease and gently apply pressure. As the student exhales moving into the twist the top left thigh should relax away from the adjusting foot. The adjuster can reach and place fingers on both shoulders to help the student find the correct alignment of the shoulders through moving back and opening the chest.
For correct spinal alignment it is necessary that both buttocks be in contact with the floor. If the twisting causes one to tilt onto the buttock on the tilting side, a folded mat should be placed under the other buttock to allow one to relax with both buttocks on the floor.
If one slouches, the spine is not kept straight and the twist will be far less effective.
The pose stretches the spine, shoulders, and hips. It massages the abdominal organs, improving digestion. There is some evidence that it relieves low back pain, neck pain, and sciatica; reduces stress; is useful for strengthening the lower back during the second trimester of pregnancy; and alleviates carpal tunnel syndrome.
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