Increase your blood flow and build flexibility with one of the secret weapons of professional athletes.
The Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) Step by Step Guide (2 Options)
To perform the bridge pose, lie on your back on the mat and bend your knees to bring them in front of your pelvis. The soles of your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should have a little bit of distance between them.
Next, extend your arms around your body and place your palms on the floor, touching your heels. If you cannot touch them, bring your heels closer to your arms.
When you have checked how far away your heels are from your palms, bring your palms together, interlacing your fingers under your back with your upper arm area on the mat as well.
Lift your back slowly away from the mat and try to align your hips with your knees, bringing the hips to almost the same level as the knees
Push your chest up while using your arms and heels to provide support for your body weight.
Lift your hips, back, and chest up and down until you find the perfect position. You should feel that your weight is distributed evenly.
Make sure that your toes point straight out in front and are close to each other. Hold the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute.
The Bridge Pose with Props Guide
If you are a beginner and you are not sure whether you can lift your back and hips from the floor, you can still hold this pose by easing in your body using props.
To follow this technique, you will need a soft mat and a few yoga blocks.
Lie down on your mat with two yoga blocks beside you.
Place one yoga block in the middle of the mat, where your back will be soon placed horizontally, and another yoga block vertically, where you will rest your head.
Next, lie down on the Yoga block with your head on the vertical block and with your back on the horizontal block.
The block that supports your back should end where your shoulder blades start, and the block underneath your head should not touch your neck. Make sure you can relax while staying on the blocks instead of holding yourself up and putting too much pressure on your neck.
When you feel the blocks helping you with your balance, lift up your arms and rotate them to face the sky. Then slowly drop the onto the mat.
This movement will help you soften your shoulder blades and get rid of the tightness that you accumulate after a stressful day.
Stretch your legs forward and slowly start bending your knees while keeping your toes close to each other.
If you are feeling a little too challenged, press your back on the Yoga block for more support.
Next, when your knees are bending, slowly lift your hips and and chest while making sure you bring the core up to draw a straight line with your knees.
While your core is up, make sure your chest is open by lifting it a little bit off the floor.
Use your arms to bring some support, either by distributing some of the body weight on them while letting them sit beside you or by putting them under your back near the yoga block.
Hold the pose for anywhere between 30 seconds to one minute.
Bridge Pose Variations
The bridge pose is used by Yoga practitioners who want to strengthen their bodies and relax as well as by gymnasts who are preparing themselves for competitions.
If you want to take the pose to the next level, there a few variations that are quite popular among athletes.
The first variation consists of holding the pose exactly as mentioned in the first guide—with one exception. You will use only one leg to support yourself, while the other will be slowly lifted towards the ceiling.
The second variation requires you to use only one arm to balance your body and use the other to grab your ankle.
As you hold the pose, slowly bring one of the ankles back to make it easier for your arm to grab it.
Common Mistakes in the Bridge Pose
Since the Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is a fairly simple pose, there are not many things that could go wrong. The most common mistakes are linked to the alignment of the hips and knees and the positioning of the arms.
First, make sure you do not leave your chest on the floor while lifting your hips. Your chest should be open too and your hips should be in line with your knees.
The position of the toes is often ignored as well. Make sure you keep your toes pointed forward, not outwardly.
Weight distribution is also quite important since it has an impact on your balance. Try lifting your upper body and releasing it a couple of times until you feel comfortable and confident that you can maintain your balance.
Bridge Pose Benefits
The bridge pose impacts our flexibility, core, and back muscles as well as our digestive system. But it does not stop there.
This pose is often used by athletes before they start their training to increase their mobility and strength. However, at the same time, the Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is part of the restorative Yoga practice which has a therapeutic effect on many illnesses and relieves pain.
Menstrual Cramps and Moodiness
You have probably noticed by now that if you work your core before your menstrual cycle, your pain will be lessened, but if you push yourself too much, you can do more bad than good.
Because you are losing quite a lot of iron and calcium during this period, you will not be able to sustain challenging workouts. But a light exercise can benefit your core by using contractions in your muscles.
A restorative version of the Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (look at the variation with Yoga blocks) can bring the best from both worlds by accelerating the process that takes place in your body during the menstrual cycle without exhausting you.
This pose can also help with moodiness, as it has a calming effect on the mind, especially if you use the restorative variation.
Strengthens and Opens Your Hips
Unless you have a very active job that involves walking around quite a bit, your hips will suffer eventually.
Most of us have jobs that involve a lot of sitting. Imagine all that pressure on our hips, daily. Some muscles will be overworked in that area, while others will remain fragile because we simply do not use them.
The bridge pose fixes this by encouraging the hips to stay in line with the knees and uses muscles that we do not usually use in our daily life. On top of that, all of our body weight and pressure is no longer put on our hips, but on our knees and arms.
By doing so, we relax our hips by putting some pressure on the muscles we rarely use in our hips and relaxing the ones that are challenged every day.
Opens the Shoulders
Again, if you have a sedentary lifestyle, you are developing certain habits that include hunching your shoulders, spending too much of your time sitting, and not putting enough strain on certain areas of your body.
The bridge pose is one of the best chest openers, and it is perfect for people who want to reverse the damage they did to their shoulders, or prevent pain.
Increases Blood Flow to Your Heart
Practiced regularly, you will notice that your blood flow especially in your legs and arms will be improved.
If you ever experience tingling in your arms and legs after standing over prolonged periods of times, then you will benefit from this pose. The tingling is a sign that your blood flow is not at its best.
By lifting your hips up and letting your chest area down, you are forcing your body to work a little bit extra to get the blood to your heart. You are “teaching” you body to improve your blood flow.
Strengthens Your Ankles and Arms
When you are holding the bridge pose, most of your body weight will be distributed on your arms and ankles that ensure you stay balanced.
By practicing the pose regularly, you will build quite a lot of strength in these areas, and with a proper protein intake, you can even build some lean mass.
Therapeutic for Back Problems
The bridge pose impacts the back muscles indirectly, which makes it perfect for Yoga practitioners who have back problems and want to address them without putting too much strain on their bodies.
Both the lower and the upper back areas are lifted up from the mat. But the upper back area will be less engaged, which makes it safe for most people who are suffering from back problems.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weakened muscles in our backs, but a gentle practice of the bridge pose can help us slowly build stronger muscles that help maintain a healthy spine.
The Heart Chakra
As I mentioned before, each pose stimulates a certain energetic point or chakra in our body. The bridge pose stimulates the heart chakra.
Knowing the effects of each pose on an energetic level can help you decide whether you should invest your time in certain poses or seek something else.
On a physical level, the heart chakra deals with your upper body area, chest, and even arms. On a spiritual level, it influences how we express our emotions and how forgiving and affectionate we are towards other.
Someone who has a weak heart chakra on a physical level suffers from breathing issues and blood flow issues, and on the spiritual level they would have difficulty forgiving themselves and others.
A weak heart chakra makes us bitter and uninterested in the needs of others, but it can also damage our self-esteem. Not only do we have difficulty connecting with others on a deeper level, but we are not able to forgive our own flaws and mistakes either.
A strong heart chakra enables us to give love and affection to those who deserve it as well as become more helpful, giving, and sociable towards others.
However, we can also get a little bit too much of the heart chakra too, and when we do tend to overlook our own flaws and give a little too much to others without expecting anything in return, we should avoid any chest opener poses.
Pregnant women and Yoga practitioners who suffer from hypertension should avoid the bridge pose.
If you are suffering from diarrhea or digestive problems that are linked to overstimulation, you should discuss this with your doctor before performing any poses that stimulate and massage the digestive system.
Did you benefit from this article? Did I miss anything? Any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated – please post in the comments and I will personally respond!
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