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For Beginners: Setu Bandha

Since you spend most of your life in forward bends, your body craves this backbend as a counterpose.

By Denise Benitez

So as you come into the pose, immediately begin to create strength and support in your legs. Do this by using your hamstrings to try to lift your thigh bones up toward the ceiling. At the same time, resist the front of your thighs, the quadriceps muscles, down toward the floor, creating opposing actions. To deepen the strength and support in your thighs, try to pull your feet isometrically toward your head. This will activate the hamstring muscles at the backs of the thighs and help draw you out of any compression in your lower back. You can also create a bandha, or lift, of your pelvic floor by drawing your perineum (pelvic floor muscles) up into the center of your body, toward your intestines.

Setu Bandha is also a great strengthening pose for your gluteal muscles, so, without losing the action of your legs, press your tailbone toward the ceiling, using your buttocks muscles. Keep your face soft, as if you are about to smile.

Now, bring your awareness to your arms and upper body. Draw your arms slightly toward your head, as if you are retracting them into the shoulder joints. This will give you more ability to activate the rhomboid muscles around your shoulder blades. Draw your shoulder blades together and press your inner shoulder blades into your back to bring your breastbone to a more vertical position. Gaze at your heart and breathe deeply and evenly.

Every time you exhale, be aware of the earthy quality of your legs and back body and let this support you and lift you higher. When you inhale, be aware of the light, airy quality of your upper chest and lungs, and expand joyfully into this area of your body. Playfully, but with great focus, investigate this relationship between action and reaction. Explore your relationship to the earth and your body's ability to dance with gravity through muscle strength, breath, flexibility, and intention.

The founder of Seattle Yoga Arts, Denise Benitez has studied yoga for more than 25 years. She has studied primarily in the Iyengar tradition of hatha yoga, but is also informed by many other traditions of yoga, human movement, and spirituality.

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