Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Bridge Pose is a classical yoga posture that is both beautiful and powerful. It is a backbend, which means that it requires strength, regularity, and precise alignment in order to open and maintain the body, breath and mind.
Alignment and Physical Benefits
The first step in this posture is abhyasa, also known as practice. This is the process of learning the foundational alignment of the pose and implementing it into practice. It is essential that the asana is repeated with accuracy, mindful awareness and consistency in order to build strength and flexibility of the body. When it comes to the alignment of this pose, focus first on the feet, ensuring that they are hip width apart and parallel to each other.
Then the hips must be raised, with the tailbone tucked in and the low back arched gently. From here, you can lift the sternum and create a beautiful, firm and steady chest opener.
The physical benefits of this pose are well known, as it stretches and opens the muscles at the front of the body, from the chest down to the hips. This posture strengthens the entire back side of the body, including the abdominal muscles, the multi-joint muscles of the low back and the gluteal muscles.
Bridge Pose also helps to stimulate internal organs, such as the kidney and adrenal glands, and it increases circulation throughout the body.
Mental and Energetic Benefits
In addition to the physical benefits, Bridge Pose can bring many mental and energetic benefits. With increasing physical strength and flexibility in the body, the way one holds their thought patterns and emotions in the mind evolves. As the mind is allowed to settle and deepen into the posture, the body is able to receive a higher quality of energy. This elevated energy helps activate the subtle layers of our being and encourages profound psychological introspection.
This posture promotes both increased positive energy as well as detoxifying energy. It is also used in pranayama to help direct energy through the body.
This energy activates the chakras, or energy wheels, by unblocking the kundalini, the spiritual energy, up the spine. With this clearing of spiritual energy, a sense of equanimity and emotional balance can be achieved.
Advanced Arm and Leg Variations
Once the foundational alignment of the pose has been achieved and the body can comfortably and safely settle into the posture, you can move into more complex variations.
Two examples of more advanced arm and leg variations that you can add to your practice are Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (One Leg Bridge Pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose).
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is a variation of the pose where one leg is bent and the leg is perpendicular to the floor. With the hands on the ground, you press the sternum upward.
The pose requires balance and strength, engaging the deep abdominals and chest muscles, as well as the gluteals. By practicing this variation, you are able to further stretch and open the chest, front of the body, while building strength and stability in the legs.
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow) is an advanced level backbend that is the combination of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana and Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).
To move into Urdhva Dhanurasana, start in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana and place the hands next to the ears. With the feet and knees in line, press into the hands and lift the hips and sternum up until the feet and shoulders are in one single line.
This advanced posture is a powerful heart opener and requires a lot of strength and flexibility.
The beauty of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is that it can be practiced by all bodies, from beginners to experts. No matter your level, you can find benefits from this pose: from challenging your physical strengths to tuning in to the subtle energies of your inner being.
Remember to practice with consistency and patience, allowing your body and mind to open and explore these various layers of the pose.
Now that you have an understanding of the alignment of the pose, the physical, mental and energetic benefits as well as the more advanced arm and leg variations to take your practice to the next level, we hope you have a more profound understanding of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. May the grace of this ancient posture open up the wisdom of your heart.