Try these restorative variations of setu bandha sarvangasana, or bridge pose.
What you’ll need
- Open space
- Ideally a yoga mat
- For part II, a foam or wooden yoga block
I. Bridge Vinyasa, also called Dvipada Pitham variation
1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hip width apart. If possible, ankles should be directly under knees. Have the arms along side the torso, palms face down. (Photo 1)
2. Take a few breaths in the nose and out the nose. The breath should be smooth, gentle ujjayi breath (please visit my recent blog on this “victorious breath”)
3. When you’re ready, inhale and lift hips and arms. Bring the backs of the wrists to rest on the floor behind you (Photo 2). Stay an additional few breaths to familiarize your self with the form. The lower back should feel spacious.
4. After a few breaths, exhale and lower the hips and the arms back down. Try to coordinate the action so they land at the same time.
5. Inhale and lift arms and hips once more. Exhale and lower.
*The breath should be smooth and gentle and initiate all action. Let it extend a little beyond the completed form, as well.
6. Repeat 5 to 10 times. With each round, become more in tune with the breath.
II. Supported Bridge, or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
This restorative backbend pose is stress relieving for both body and mind. It can help improve and maintain healthy digestion. For women, it can help alleviate menstrual discomfort. When practiced correctly, it opens the should/heart area and is beneficial for the lower back.
This bridge variation can be practicing using the 3 yoga block heights. If you’re not sure what’s best for you, start with the lowest height. If anything feels awkward, release and realign. There should be NO negative sensation in the lower back.
1. After practicing the bridge vinyasa sequence, pick the hips up and place the yoga block on the lowest height underneath the sacroiliac joint. Gently roll the shoulder blades closer together. (Photo 4) Thighs should remain as parallel as possible.
2. After a few breaths here, you may want to move to the medium height. I prefer to have the block lengthwise with the spine, supporting the tailbone to lumbar. (See Photo # 5)
3. If the first two heights are comfortable, perhaps try the highest option. The block should fully support the tailbone. Please see how it is positioned in photo #6.
After practicing part I and II, bring the feet mat with apart and let the knees touch. I like to rest one hand on the stomach and the other on the heart. Breathe fully and deeply. A nice technique is three-part breathing- breathe into the belly, then lower chest, then upper chest.
Remain for a few breaths (5-10) and then hug the knees into the chest.
(Thank you to Kate Hakala for helping me take the photos!)
Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.