How To Do Bridge Pose
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Say it like this: SAY-too BAHN-duh shar-vahn-GAHS-uh-nuh
The Sanskrit name comes from five different words Setu means bridge. Bandha means lock. Sarva means all, Anga means limb and Asana means pose.
When you are in the pose, your arms and legs create a locked bridge. This is an excellent pose to use as preparation for deeper backbends. You can use a block as a prop to a restorative pose.
Stretches the spine, the back of the neck, the thighs and the hip flexors (the front hip joints) and opens the chest, heart and shoulders. This is an inversion pose because your heart is higher than your head. It is less strenuous than a headstand but holds many of the same benefits.
It calms the mind and therefore can offer relief from stress, anxiety or mild depression. It is also useful if you suffer from fatigue, headaches or insomnia. Bridge pose is also credited to be therapeutic for those with high blood pressure and because it opens the chest and increases lung capacity it is also very helpful for asthma sufferers.
The benefits of Bridge Pose also include aiding digestion and regulating metabolism as a result of stimulating the abdominal organs and thyroid gland.If you often have largely sedentary days, sitting in an office or perhaps driving all day, this pose will be particularly rejuvenating.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your arms by your side extended and with your palms down,your heels should be close to the buttocks and hip width apart.
With your feet parallel to each other press the upper arms and your feet into the floor. Exhale and slowly raise your hips toward the ceiling moving your breastbone towards your chin but be careful not to move the chin towards the breastbone.
Keep your chin slightly lifted so there is space under the back of the neck. Be aware to keep your shoulder blades drawn together as you extend your arms and do not force your shoulders away from your ears because it can overstretch your neck and perhaps cause an injury. Bring you knees out in front of you so that you are keeping your lower back extended with your knees kept above your ankles.
Hold the pose for between 5 and 15 breaths.
To come out of the pose, release the arms and lower the hips back towards the floor on an exhaled breath and roll the spine slowly down vertebrae by vertebrae. For a rejuvenating spine massage you can slowly come up into the pose the same way and down again.
If you have some difficulty keeping your hips lifted or if you are using this as a restorative pose you may put a block or a support under your sacrum which is the place at the base of the spine just above your tailbone. This will support your pelvis.
If you are an experienced yoga practitioner you can try to keep your buttocks relaxed and only use the thigh muscles to lift the hips or when you are in the pose you could raise one leg in turn toward the ceiling.
As with all yoga poses always work within the limits of your own body and ability and do not force anything. Sometimes you might be able to lift your hips as high as they can go with ease and some days not, in which case use a block. Regular practise improves your flexibility and strength but pay attention to the daily differences in your body. Your spine, thighs and shoulders are going to tell you how far to take the pose so be aware, notice how your body responds without using force, allowing your Bridge to be the connection between your mind, body and spirit.