New Bhishma

September 11, 2019

Bhishma and the Bed of Arrows

Several years ago, I taught Bhishmasana as part of a restorative workshop at the Maha Padma Temple, Union Square, New York. Bishma surrendered to his fate, which was already ordained by Krishna. Stretched out on our yogis’ “bed of nails” and suspended in time, we surrendered to the moment, completely supported and utterly at peace.

Many stories are told in the Mahabharata of Bhishma. He was the son of a great king; he was also a yogi, a learned man and a great warrior. This particular story tells how Bhishma, unparalleled in the noble the art of archery was himself shot through by arrows as he fought in battle. As he fell, his whole body was held above ground by the shafts of these arrows, which protruded from his back and through his arms and legs. Bhishma was suspended this way for 40 days.
B.K.S. Iyengar tells us that Bhishma was kept alive for so long most likely because of the strategic positioning — similar to acupuncture points; behind the heart and at the coccyx — of the arrows.

Bishma meditated as he transitioned in a timely and dignified manner from the manifest world to the un-manifest, eternal world. Seeing Bhishma laid out on such a bed of arrows humbled even the gods who watched from the heavens in reverence, silently blessing the mighty warrior.

This settup from Pune is part of a set of poses given to students with heart problems.

Stephanie Quick was a mine of information on this subject.

“Guruji would refer to the poses in terms of them being psycho-somatic or somato-psychic. For the heart condition there is a 2 way flow; there is a downward flow from head to feet, and an up-liftment specifically to the heart, the heart is uplifted – but the head is kept at that savasana level”. Stephanie Quirk.

This is from a book called “BKS Iyengar. Yoga Wisdom And Practice”. Published by Dorling Kindersley. Sarapanjarasana. Bed of Arrows Pose. “When Bhishmasana was totally injured in Kuruksetra, he kept himasel alive with sheer willpower. He lay on a bed of arrows, known as Sarapanjara. But was it not a strain for him to lie on a bed or arrows? He preferred to lie in the same posistion. Why? Because he was supported by arrows at the cardiac nerve. The ventricle of the heart was supported and that brought him a restfull state. In the Institute (RIMYI), those who suffer from cardiac peoblems are asked to do this asana.

I asked Stephanie Quirk to clarify the two names: Sarapanjarasana and Bhishmasana. This is what she said:

“Sarapanjarasana is the original name. I once asked Prashant its meaning and he said pose of death”.

“It is called Sarapanjarasana in the 25th jubilee commemorative volume “Yogadhara” in an article by Mr Subramanium, about Gurujis treatment of his heart condition. Bishmacharyasana was termed by Guruji. I think Guruji linked the legend of Bishma to this pose because Bishma lay down on the bed of arrows to die – His name also means one who undertakes a terrible vow (bheeshma pratigya) and fulfills it. Bhishma has a boon from his father, Shantanu – to choose the time of his death. So he was shot full of arrows but waited to choose when to die – suitable for the heart patient – that the pose may bestow the chance to choose: “not now”.”

“Ive only ever seen the heart version in Pune, some with only little elevation esp in the early days but now more like a supported Salamba Purvottanasna”.

“When I first arrived in Pune, the pose was done with 3 bricks belted together under the buttocks and an inverted “T” shape arrangement of 2 bricks under the heart, and 2 bolster height under the head – the pose is a Savasana (even the heart versions) and placed at the end of the practice. The version with the head back below the heart make it “morph” more towards a viparita dandasana or pariankasana, and not a variant of Savasana”. Stephanie Quirk.

“I often see online students enjoying having the whole body elevated off the ground with bricks under all limbs. This is closley associated to savasana, and because of the precariousness of the position one stays aware/alert and vigilant (like Bhishma had to remain until death). I have never actually seen this in Pune – maybe you had earlier to my arrival – but my thought on this is that there were never enough bricks for so many people as there always is in Pune – I’ve only ever seen the heart version in Pune, some with only little elevation esp in the early days but now more like a Salamba Purvottanasna.
I like the reference of resting on the infinite ocean, but that is probably “Ananta-asana”, for Bhishma had an  infinite time to pass before he died, he had an unbreakable vow. Yes there is that feeling in the pose when up on all limbs – floating on the vast ocean – for the heart patient, it brought life and it also brought alertness and opened out from the centre of their consciousness – hridaya citta samvrtt”. Stephanie Quirk.

© 2019 Bobby Clennell

Advertisements

Bristol: April 26 – 28, 2019

August 14, 2019

Workshop at Yogawest

Adho Mukha Svanasana with blocks under the elbows to realign the carrying angle.

Prone Vriksasana. Here the student is placing the sole of her foot against her opposite thigh. At the last American convention in Dallas, Abhi had us raise the bent knee up. In order to mobilise tight hips,  we also placed our fist under the bent knee.

There’s nothing quite as decompressing as Halasana praticed over a Halasana bench! Here the spine is extended along it’s full length.

© 2019 Bobby Clennell.

London: May 7 – 8, 2019

August 8, 2019

Workshop at Oakside Yoga Studios

Adho Mukha Svanasana. The blocks under the elbows support and correct a carrying angle. The belt holds stubborn elbows in.

Here is Dave Dayes (who runs this studio from his home) with a belt below his elbows and just his head supported which quiets the brain. It also gives him another point of contact with the solid ground from which he can better sweep the sides of his hips up and back.

Adho Mukha Svanasana. The belts are organized in such a way as to strengthen the lower back spinal muscles.

Urdhva Dhanurasana from a Chair gives tremendous upper body expansion, and space through the shoulder joints.

Urdhva Dhanurasana from a chair and a half-round block. Push up from a chair (and develop your pushing power) if pushing up from the floor seems like it’s a long way off.

If pushing up from the floor with stiff or weak wrists is painfull then try pushing up into Urdhva Dhanurasana with a slant board under the heels of the hands. Next time this student practices this pose, if she first observes this picture, she she will see that she needs to move her shoulders forward to eventually align them above her wrists. The foam block gives us a reference point: do not turn the toes out! Touch the block with the entire inner edge of the feet.

Similarly, Urdhva Dhanurasana with a (widthwise) block between the feet, and a rolled blanket under the hands. Move the arms toward the wall. Push the heels and hands down, roll the outer knees to the inner knees and lift the tailbone and shoulders.

Urdhva Dhanurasana. To open up the space behind the knees, move the backs of the thighs toward the buttock crease. You are looking to get the forearm bones and shinbones parallel to each other. Another instruction for this super flexible student: ” Maintain good resistance in your joints: roll your upper arms in toward your head; fix your deltoids back onto your shoulder girdle”.

Once you can push up from the floor in Urdhva Dhanurasana, you are ready to drop back to the wall and then walk down. Coil your front body around your back body as much as you can (not forgetting to raise you back ribs) before taking the arms over.

Here’s Dave, flipping up and over from the chair support to the floor.

Dropping back from Tadasana to Urdhva Dhanurasana. Just before your hands touch the floor, move them back toward your feet.

I’m not sure that the belt around his hands was such a good idea…

We helped this student lift her shoulders and chest so she could straighten her arms.

Recovery.

©2019 Bobby Clennell.

Notes from Pune: Yogadandasana. February 2019

July 30, 2019

Yogadandasana. Drawings made from a class taught by Rajlaxmi at RIMYI, Pune.

Adho Mukha Sukhasana. Some students reached forward to the grill.

Sit in Upavista Konasana: extend your ankles toward your heels. Sit on a narrow fold blanket. Fold your legs into Baddha Konasana. Place a narrow brick between the feet.

If necessary, go to the wall and hold the ropes. Turn the brick, first onto its flat side, and then turn it to horizontal. Descend the knees.

Place your feet on top of the brick. Now place a folded mat under the brick.

Now sit on the brick. Remaining on the brick, extend your right leg out to the side. Press the Baddha Konasana knee down and turn that heel up.

Change legs. (If the brick is hard, sit on a vertical bolster). Extend both legs out and return to Upavistha Konasana.

Bend your left leg to Marichyasana position. Turn left toes back. Press arm against bent leg. Change sides. Now move back to Baddha Konasana. Now bend your left leg to Baddha Konasana, right leg to Upavista Konasana. Lift your pelvis, raise your heel and push it forward so you sit on the inner side of the big toe.

Change sides. The students are now on a four-fold sticky mat or vertical bolster or a block. Wedge a brick between heel and pubic bone.

You can come into the pose by sliding down the ropes. To bring your weight to the inner edges of the folded leg big toe, roll forward…

…and now roll forward on both legs. Rajlaxmi came right to the edge of the platform to roll forward even more. 

Place the feet on a flat block. Then turn the block onto its tall end. Press the knees down.

Paschimottanasana: if you are stiff separate your legs.

“Yogadandasana means the staff of a Yogin. In this pose, the yogi sits using one leg as a crutch under the armpit, hence the name” BKS Iyengar: Light On Yoga. Bend your right leg back into Virasana. Push your left foot back (see more complete instructions in Light on Yoga).

The pillar was used to support the lifted leg, while the students turned toward the Virasana leg.

The knee of the Baddha Konasana leg has to turn.

Change sides. Forward bends: Janu Sirsasana; Ardha Baddha Paschimottanasana;

Triang Mukha Aika Pada Paschimottanasana; Marichyasana 1.

Paschimottanasana; Malasana; Uttanasana; Adho Mukha Svanasana; Parsvottanasana; Setu Banda Sarvangasana with a Brick and Tadasana legs. Some students used bolsters for Setu Banda. Move the shoulder blades deeper inside the back. Push the shins toward the shoulders, but at the same time, walk out with your legs.

Savasana.

© 2019 Bobby Clennell

Lyme Regis, Dorset: May 11 – 12, 2019

July 23, 2019

Workshop with Hannah Lovegrove

In this standing twist, to avoid the pelvic organs from sinking, press the standing leg thigh back.

Uttitha Trikonasana. Move the entire pelvis back away from the head. Revolve from the right kidney to the left.

Cut the inner right thigh back. Move the breast bone away from the pelvis so that the entire torso extends toward the head.

As you curve around the block, create some resistance by extending your inner legs, ankles and heels away.

Stamp your heels down and raise your tailbone and with it, your entire pelvis. Move your back ribs up away from the floor and forward toward your breast bone.

Press your heels to the floor (toes turned in) move your upper body and chest toward the wall.

Urdhva Dhanurasana. It take several yearts of practice in this and other poses to build the strength needed to practice this with the arms straight.

No wall ropes? Not a problem!

Forward extension with chair, bolster and wall. Here we are looking to get the front body the same length as the back body.

More recovery: Uttanasana with a blanket roll.

We are in rural England. This working sheep dog waited patiently outside the asana room for his human (a sheep farmer) to finish her yoga.

© 2019 Bobby Clennell.

Cornwall: May 5 – 6, 2019

July 2, 2019

Workshop at South West Iyengar Yoga Institute

Abhijata Iyengar says we should widen the difference between hands and feet in this pose. Here the length from Hip to hands is much longer than from hip to feet.

Walk the feet back, and now the the length in either direction from the hips is the same.

But how to get those shoulders in?

Supta Padangustasana.

A forward extension.

The wonderful charm of Cornwall and especially the little town where this Iyengar Yoga Association is located blew me away!

© 2019 Bobby Clennell.

Fernandina Beach, Florida: January 18 – 20, 2019

June 26, 2019

Workshop at Community Yoga

These first four photos were taken from a class on pelvic and hip health.

A “cone” shape was made out of the sticky mat. It was placed under the student’s entire pelvis then slowely pulled out. The student is instructed not to “help” in any way. This action lengthens the lumbar spine. It’s especially effective for those who have a pronounced lumbar curve, low back pain and situations where the lumbar spine discs have slipped, or when the lumbar or sacral area have degenerated or become compressed.

Supta Baddha Konasana with a slant board under the upper back.

It’s pretty much a given that anyone who can do Matsyasana like this, practices it everyday.

Parsva Halasana. Lift from the inner thighs. Here as I walk around to the right, I am lining up knees and ankles by pulling the right leg thigh back into the right hip socket.

 

© 2019 Bobby Clennell

Delray Beach, Florida: January 22 – 23, 2019

June 17, 2019

Workshop at iYoga Delray Beach

First we opened up the dorsal spine. Give yourself plenty of support, especially if the neck feels compressed when you curve backward.

Collen Gallager supports her head with her hands.

Dropping back onto the chair rest (and if you are ready, walking down onto the chair seat), then flipping back over onto the floor.

Recover by flopping over the chair back.

 

© 2019 Bobby Clennell

Retreat in Kamakura-City, Japan: December 6 – 9, 2018

June 15, 2019

Yoga retreat at Amrita Ofuna

To remove rigidity, we need fluid in the joints. The element of water is accessed through movement, which is associated with the element of air.

Fast jumping pranisizes the legs with the element of water. Your legs will not become strong. You will however, sharpen…

…the intelligence, especially if in a class the jumping sequence is not repeated…

…the same each time by the teacher.

When standing poses are practiced from Tadasana, the legs become pranisized with the element of earth and the legs become very strong.

I was much taken by this certified Iyengar Yoga teacher who attended my workshop.

She is over 8o years old.

Here she is in a very light looking Parivritta Sirsasana.

Her name: Naoko Itoh.

The enormous bronze Buddha is located on the grounds of the Kotoku-in temple in Kamakura City. The monument dates all the way back to 1252 and was originally gold-plated. The statue has stood in the open air since the temple building was destroyed in the tsunami of September 20, 1492, and only traces of gold-leaf remain around the ears.

© 2019 Bobby Clennell

Kobe, Japan: November 30 – December 3, 2018

March 13, 2019

Workshop at Iyengar Yoga Institute of Kobe

Urdhva Hastasana; but even with a block and a belt, the student cannot straighten her arms.

Another belt was added below the the first belt. Now she can extend her arms. This memory will help her straighten her arms without the belts later on.m

This student also has a carrying angle, where the elbow projects forward. By clasping the upper arms, revolving them in and raising them (and at the same time applying a little pressure on the elbow) alignment comes and the arms begin to feel peaceful.

Helping this student to ‘find’ her legs. By tipping the foot up, she will eventually be able to find her thigh muscles and straighten her leg.

To strengthen the mind, strengthen the legs.

To fully straighten the leg, and take the kneecap back into the joint practice Ardha Chandrasana with a block under the sole of the foot.

Diagonal Uttitha Trikonasana. Practicing the pose this way takes the pressure off the front leg so it’s helpful for those with hip problems. It also provides more opportunity to revolve the trunk toward the ceiling.

Raising the pelvis in this version of Viparita Dandasana stimulates the abdominal organs (which can wake up ovarian function).

Sirsasana; The belt gives a visual reference (to the observer) of the mid line. Here the student needs to take her buttocks forward.

Sarvangasana. That which is behind the mid line – move forward; that which is in front, move back.

Parsva Halasana. Keep the torso high. Keep walking the legs around to the side – aim to bring them level with the shoulders.

 

© 2019 Bobby Clennell