According to BKS Iyengar in Light on Yoga, Kala Bhairavasana is a yoga pose dedicated to “Shiva in his terrible aspect as the destroyer of the universe, a personification of the destructive principle.” This yoga pose registers as 19* on Iyengar’s 60* scale of difficulty.
Kala Bhairavasana indeed could personify destructive principles in your practice if not approached with great care and little ego. You begin your journey into Kala Bhairavasana from Eka Pada Sirsasana. Along the way, when you find resistance in your body – namely in your shoulders, your neck, and your arms – you need to decide if it’s time to turn back. This yoga pose is only appropriate for someone who can do Eka Pada Sirsasana with ease.
Once you’re in Eka Pada Sirsasana, place both hands on the ground outside your left, bound leg. Then roll your torso up and away from the earth and remove your right hand from the ground. I like to place my right hand on my left foot to help stabilize the pose. When I take my right hand up to the sky as Iyengar does in Kala Bhairavasana, my balance gets too shaky to maintain the pose’s integrity.
Yoga poses like Kala Bhairavasana require us to put our ego at the door and listen in to our bodies and our edges. Nancy Alder had a great post recently for #365yoga on “the edge”. As she says, so often in class we’re pushing ourselves to that edge within a pose. In Kala Bhairavasana, it is crucial to honor the edge and to step away from it when things get shaky. Sometimes, stepping away from the edge is the best way to practice your yoga.