Two Supported Bridges

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For those who spend time hunched over bike handlebars--or simply steering wheels and keyboards--tightness in the hip flexors can be a big problem. (We investigated the interplay between the hip flexors and hamstrings in this post about Anjaneyasana.) For fluidity in the pedal stroke and running stride, as well as for comfort in asana practice and in daily life, we need to release the front of the hips.

One nice way to get this done, while fostering recovery, is to enjoy supported backbends. Specifically, these two approaches to supported bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana).

*Bridge with a bolster or blankets. This approach is more gentle, stretching the front of the hips, belly, and chest as you rest against a soft support. Use a yoga bolster run lengthwise down your spine, stack blankets to simulate a bolster, or wrap a foam roller in a blanket or beach towels.

Slide your head off the support so that it rests on the floor, and let the tops of your shoulders sink down, too. Arrange your arms and legs in a way that yields a nice open feeling across the front of your body, and stay for five minutes or more.

*Bridge with a block. Using a block to support bridge pose allows a deeper release in the hip flexors. Depending on your needs, the block could be on its low, medium, or high setting--start with its medium height, and adjust as needed. If you use the highest position, be sure you really trust the block to hold you, or a fear of falling will make you retain tension around the hips, just where you ought to be releasing it. Put the block low against the bony back of the pelvis. It can run horizontally or, for a sacroiliac adjustment, could run vertically along the sacrum.

Your feet can stay under your knees or can reach long. You might even enjoy hugging one knee in to your chest as you push out through the opposite foot. Arms can stay under the hips, can hold the block, or can elevate overhead to increase the stretch. Stay for three to five minutes.

Complement this passive backbending with some active backbends, such as Locust Pose (Salabhasana), and you'll help balance your body, front to back.