Archive for September, 2019

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