Bridge Pose, or in Sanskrit Setu Bandha Sarvāńgāsana (set-uu bahn-dah SAR-vanh-GAH-sah-nah), goes by multiple names. Some other names that this pose goes by are:
- Bridge Lock Posture (Setu Bandhāsana)
- Half Wheel
- Shoulder Pose
- Shoulder Supported Bridge Pose
- Two-Legged Table (Dwi Pada Pitham)
- Bridge Lock all Limb
Bridge Pose also has multiple variations and modifications that can be utilized to ensure that students are able to practice this asana without discomfort. Two of these variations, Simple Bridge Pose with Block or Bolster Under Hips and Reclining Bridge Pose (also known as Supported Bridge), are covered in your textbook “RESTORATIVE YOGA FOR LIFE”. Although this asana is traditionally a beginner to intermediate asana, the two variations covered in your textbook are perfect for beginners. This is because these variations utilize props, as well as describe options for using alternative props, so the majority of students can practice these variations. The props also assist students in finding proper alignment and form which beginners will find helpful. For a visual demonstration of Reclining Bridge Pose (Supported Bridge), see below.
As stated above, your textbook does provide descriptions and pictures for two variations of this asana. However, for additional visual aids and descriptions of other variations, review the below video and picture. The video provides another variation with a block and the picture provides important cues while practicing this asana.
As you practice this asana, there are some common adjustments that you will want to keep an eye out for in regard to proper alignment.
• Neck strained
• Chin closing off the throat
• Chest sunken between shoulders
• Knees not stacked over ankles (does not apply to Reclining Bridge Pose variation)
• Feet not hip distance apart and/or grounded (depends on variation)
• Shoulders not grounded
• Compression in lower back
• Hips are not higher than the chest (depends on variation)
As seen in your textbook “RESTORATIVE YOGA FOR LIFE,” there are different modifications/variations that you can do depending on your students needs. Below are the available modifications for this asana and the types of students that typically benefit from them. Keep in mind that this is a Restorative Yoga class, so these modifications are usually the standard.
• For students with lower back injuries or pain, place a folded blanket, bolster, or block under the lower back to elevate the hips and support the weight. This is also good for students during early pregnancy.
• To avoid stress in the neck and upper spine, place a blanket or bolster below the shoulders.
• To build back strength, and help with balance, you can either: a) place the hands just below the hips with elbows on the ground supporting the back (you can also add blocks under the feet if needed), b) place a cushioned chair or a chair with a blanket on it under the lower back, c) use blocks or a bolster under the lower back, d) place blankets under the mid to lower back and knees and place the feet on blocks or e) place a long and low bench under the back and feet with a blanket or bolster to cushion the bench and support the shoulders and neck (you can also place straps around the legs with this version if needed to keep them together). To avoid neck injury, assist students with props.
• To help increase leg strength and prevent slipping, students can practice with their feet close to a wall, which also gives the knees support. You can also use a strap to help keep the legs together.
Even with the use of props, there are some contraindications for this asana and its variations.
1. Students with recent or chronic injury to the lower back, knees, or shoulders should avoid this pose.
2. Students that have a severe neck injury (like spondylitis), severe migraines, lower back injury, severe back pain, a weak back, stomach ulcers, a hernia, recent abdominal surgery, constipation, diarrhea, has a weak stomach or intestines, are in their menstrual cycle, or are pregnant (after the second trimester) should avoid this pose due to pressure on the neck, core, and abdomen.
3. If the student has high blood pressure, they should use caution in this pose.
4. Although this posture can be beneficial for the knees, if you have had a knee replacement or a severe case of osteoporosis you should avoid this posture.
Even with the above contraindications, this asana has many benefits. See below for a list of benefits.
• Stretches the chest, back / spine and shoulders as well as strengthens the neck, back, abdominal muscles, spine, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calf muscles, knees, and ankles. By strengthening these areas, posture and alignment can improve, your legs will be energized, and it can help relieve backaches, lower back tightness, and neck strain. This can also be therapeutic for students with osteoporosis.
• Helps to prevent arterial blockages, fluctuating blood pressure, mild depression, and hypertension by resting the heart muscles and expanding the chest. This increases lung capacity and is calming for the brain. Opening and expanding the chest also helps improve function of the thyroid and parathyroid glands and is therapeutic for students with asthma or sinusitis.
• Relieves anxiety, fear, migraines / stress related headaches, insomnia / nervous exhaustion, fatigue, and reduces stress by loosening the muscles, increasing circulation, calming the nervous system and concentrating to hold the pose. This also energizes the brain and mind by bringing blood to the brain.
• Relaxes the elbows.
• Increases blood flow, which stimulates the endocrine system, and improves digestion. Massages and strengthens the internal organs in the abdomen. It also helps relieve menopausal discomfort, menstrual discomfort (with modifications), and can help rest the legs to prevent varicose veins.
• Lengthens the spine and increases flexibility, while keeping the nervous system healthy.
As you can see, this asana has many benefits and variations. Because of the different variations, a few chakras are affected by this asana. The extent to which a chakra is affected depends on the variation that you are practicing. Below depicts the chakra that is most affected during the two variations covered in your textbook.
Simple Bridge Pose with Block or Bolster Under Hips
Chakra Two: Sacral or Svadhisthana (sweetness) Chakra. This is the chakra for emotion, sexuality, and attraction of opposites. Its goals are fluidity, pleasure, and relaxation. Its location is the abdomen, genitals, lower back, and hips.
Reclining Bridge Pose
Lastly, see below for how either variation described in your textbook affects the doshic balance in the body.
Vata This dosha is increased in this asana.
Pitta This dosha is increased in this asana.
Kapha This dosha is decreased in this asana.
Additional information on this asana
- In the textbook “YOGA: THE PATH TO HOLISTIC HEALTH by B.K.S. Iyengar
- CHAPTER 5: YOGA FOR STRESS
- Asanas for Stress
- Setubandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
- Asanas for Stress
- CHAPTER 5: YOGA FOR STRESS