As nature awakens and begins to share its teachings, we can respond in kind. Setu bandhasana, bridge pose, helps us open our communication channels by balancing vishudha, the fifth chakra.
This pose is wonderful for an imbalanced endocrine system – circulating prana into the thyroid, kidneys and adrenals – and for strengthening the entire backside of the body. If you are prone to allergies, setu bandhasana can offer short-term relief for your congested sinuses and improve your long-term health by strengthening your agni, or digestive fire.
Setu bandhasana is an energizing and invigorating pose that opens the front side of the spine. Follow it with twists, which are neutralizing or forward bends, which are calming.
Like its name, setu bandhasana is a great bridge for beginners new to backbends or for moving to more advanced postures, like urdhva dhanurasana, our focus next month.
- Lie on the floor, arms alongside your body. Bend your knees, placing your feet hip-width apart. Line up your ankles beneath your knees.
- Bring your shoulders slightly toward your ears, keeping your neck in its natural curve. Roll the arm bones under your torso so that all your vertebrae, including the bones near the base of your neck and shoulder blades, are off the mat. Reach back and slide your fingers along the base of your neck to feel for space between your spine and the floor. You should be able to comfortably fit 1-2 fingers in that space.
- Press the back of your shoulders and head gently into the ground, keeping your chin neutral. Ground through the balls and heels of your feet.
- Engage neutral spine by extending your tailbone 1/8th inch toward your heels. Hold this as you breathe in and use the strength of your legs to lift your pelvis. Work toward bringing your pelvis above your chest, keeping your knees in line with your hips and your feet strongly grounded.
- Lengthen through your spine. If you feel any pain in your spine, back off until it stops or place a block beneath your sacrum for a supported pose.
- Stay here or try a variation by interlacing your hands beneath your body and pressing into the floor to create more opening along the front side of the spine.
- Take 15-20 ujjayi breaths, feeling the expansion of the lungs and the flow of energy in the throat. Exhale as you come down slowly in one piece, like a plank.
- Do two more rounds of setu bandhasana and follow with a forward fold or twist. Finish your practice with savasana, corpse pose.
Feet and knees wider than hip-width
You’ll build the best bridge by keeping your feet hip-width apart, pointed straight ahead and grounded from start to finish. Keep your knees in line with the hips and pointed straight ahead to maintain even distribution of the work through the spine. This will lengthen and strengthen the muscles in a balanced way.