SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA: BRIDGE POSE

Please be safe and warm up with some cat/cow stretches and cobra pose before attempting the traditional variation of bridge pose. Traditional bridge is a deep heart opening and shoulder opening pose, a shape that your body will be happier to make if your muscles are warm.

Please avoid practicing the traditional variation of this pose if you have any kind of neck injury. Scroll down for more variations.

BENEFITS OF BRIDGE POSE:

  • heart opening

  • benefits anahata chakra

  • strengthens the hamstrings, glutes and inner thighs

  • strengthens the core and low back

  • promotes thyroid health

  • alleviates fatigue

  • reduces insomnia

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Lie on your back with the arms extended alongside your body, palms facing down. The feet are flat on the floor and all ten toes are pointing straight ahead. The feet should be about hip distance apart, so the heels are in line with your sit bones. Press into the soles of the feet and lift your hips. Adjust the position of your feet so that your ankles are directly below the knees. Keep the toes pointing forward. Feel the inner thighs magnetize toward one another. If you notice the knees splaying open, put a yoga block or a rolled up blanket between your thighs and squeeze the thighs together.

Feel the spine arch evenly. The sternum and collarbones lift. Snuggle the shoulder blades toward one another so that you’re lifting up onto the shoulders to create space for your neck. You can keep the palms of the hands pressing into the earth, or you can clasp the hands. You could also press the palms of the hands into the lower back for support if desired.

Hold for ten deep breaths, then lower the hips back down. Balance the spine by hugging the knees in toward your chest and then rest in savasana.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Toes face forward

  • Knees over ankles

  • Inner thighs magnetized toward one another - add a block here if you’re struggling

  • Avoid clenching your rear - this will put stress on the low back. If this happens, try adding a block between the thighs and squeeze the thighs together.

  • Snuggle the shoulder blades together, like you’re tucking your shoulders in.

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YOGA BLOCK UNDER THE SACRUM

Lie on your back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Press into the soles of the feet and lift your hips. With the hips lifted, slide a yoga block underneath your sacrum, adjusting the height to your comfort. The higher the block, the deeper the backbend will be. Snuggle your shoulder blades together, coming onto the tops of the shoulders. Tuck the chin into your chest for a stretch in the back of the neck. Let the majority of your weight rest on top of the block. Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or up to five minutes. To come out of this pose, press into your feet, lift the hips and remove the block. Roll yourself over to the side and slowly press yourself up to sit.

NON-INVERTED VARIATION

For this variation, set a yoga block in front of a bolster. Sit down on top of the block and lower yourself back onto the bolster. Adjust your position so that your sacrum is on top of the block and your entire spine is on the bolster. You can keep the feet below the knees and actively press into the soles of the feet, engaging the legs. For a more restorative option, you can take the feet as wide as the mat and let the knees fall in toward one another. Hold for ten deep breaths or up to five minutes.

This is a good option for people with neck pain.

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RESTORATIVE VARIATION

If lying flat isn’t comfortable, this variation can give you the same heart opening benefits of bridge pose. Set your bolster with one end over a yoga block, then lie back with the spine along the bolster. Take the arms alongside the body with the palms facing up. This will encourage the shoulders to open. The legs can be straight, or you may bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. Rest here for as long as you’d like.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

MATSYASANA: FISH POSE

Fish pose (matsyasana) is an intense backbend. Please approach this pose with caution if you experience blood pressure issues, migraines/headaches or neck pain/previous neck injury. Whenever I practice this pose, I pretty much always use props. You can still experience the same  benefits without going into the traditional variation, so be gentle with yourself. It's a good idea to warm up with some cat/cow stretches and a gentle backbend like cobra pose. If you're going for an unsupported variation of this pose, I would recommend including it in the second half of your practice.

BENEFITS:

  • spinal flexibility
  • upper back strength
  • improves posture
  • opens the chest and ribcage
  • opens the throat
  • benefits the throat chakra
  • benefits the heart chakra
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start by lying down on your back. Slide your hands underneath the outer edges of your hips with the palms facing down. Press into the elbows, forearms and hands and begin to lift your chest. Open your heart, broaden the collarbones while engaging the lower belly to protect your lower back. Keep the sit bones rooted into the floor. Lengthen the entire spine, including the neck. Keeping the neck long, lean back and rest the crown of the head on the floor. There should be no "crunching" of the cervical spine here. If this is uncomfortable, please consider trying option two instead. The neck is fragile, and it's not worth injuring yourself! The legs can be extended with the feet flexed, or you can bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. I'd recommend trying both leg positions and seeing which one feels best for you. It may be different for you each time, and that's okay!

Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths, then return to lying on your back. Follow up poses should balance the spine, such as any type of forward fold or gentle twist.

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VARIATION: HEAD UP

If you are uncomfortable placing the crown of the head on the floor, you can keep the head up. This does require a degree of strength to hold, so placing a block under the head is another option here. Hold for ten deep breaths.

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 1)

This is my personal favorite variation. You get to hold the shape of the pose without any effort. To come into this pose, you'll set the bolster so that it's horizontal. Lie back over the bolster so that it's underneath your shoulder blades. Take the arms overhead into "cactus arm" position. You can come onto the crown of the head if that's comfortable for you, but I prefer to support the head and neck with a yoga block.

Hold for up to ten minutes, depending on your comfort. 

This variation can still provide a pretty intense chest opening. If your chest muscles are particularly tight, I would recommend the next variation.

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 2)

For this variation, you'll prop your yoga bolster up on top of a yoga block (or a rolled up towel or blanket) to create an incline. You can adjust the incline to lessen the stretch if desired. Turn your back to the bolster and lie back. Let the chest gently open and rest the forearms on the floor with the palms face-down. If your arms don't reach the floor, place pillows or yoga blocks underneath. The legs can be bent or straight, depending on your preference. 

Hold for up to ten minutes or even fifteen minutes, depending on your comfort. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses.