Pronunciation: SAY-too BAHN-duh shar-vahn-GAHS-uh-nuh
Pose Type: Seated
Bridge pose, or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, is commonly used to stretch and strengthen the back and abdominal muscles as well as opening the lungs and chest. The Sanskrit name translates literally as ‘construction of a bridge’ and that’s exactly how the pose is performed. Initially, this pose requires a significant amount of strength and you may not be able to hold it for very long, but with practice you will be able to engage the muscles with stability and take the pose further.
The restorative form of this pose is accomplished by placing a block under the sacrum and allowing your weight to rest on the block versus supporting it with your leg muscles. When coming out of the pose, i.e., lowering your hips onto the floor, keep the hands interlaced under the weight of the body for further shoulder opening.
This pose is typically performed in a seated sequence on the floor but it can also be practiced on its own.
- Start by lying on your back on your mat with your arms next to the body, palms down.
- Bend the knees, bringing the soles of your feet parallel to the mat and close to your buttocks. Keep the knees above the ankles.
- On an inhale, lift your hips up toward the sky and interlace your fingers behind your back, straightening the arms and pressing them into the mat.
- Roll your shoulders toward each other under your back and keep space between your chin and your chest.
- An advanced move is to lift one leg high toward the ceiling perpendicular with the floor. Then, lower that leg and repeat on the other side.
- Relax the buttocks while keeping the thighs engaged to lift the hips higher.
Releasing from the pose is done by releasing the arms and lowering the hips to the floor on an exhale. Be sure to roll your spine as you come out of the pose. It is important to pay attention to alignment in this pose. Don’t allow the knees to splay outward as your rise upward.
Benefits of Bridge Pose
The benefits of this pose include:
- Stretches the neck, chest, and spine.
- Strengthens the legs and upper back.
- Improves digestion.
- Reduces headaches and backaches.
- Calms the mind and relieves mild depression.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is an excellent pose for both strengthening the body and restoring the spirits.