“One of my favorite postures for awakening the senses to the here and now is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), a beginning backbend that strengthens the legs and hips, massages the spine, and opens the heart. Methodical practice of this asana also offers an opportunity to explore the body and its movements with attention and care. In the process, the mind is calmed and the body becomes energized, leaving the practitioner feeling revitalized and refreshed.” – Claudia Cummins
Bridge Pose Basics
Sanskrit: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Pose type: Backbend
Why we love it: “Bridge is one pose I can sneak in while getting my kids ready for bed or before or after a workout. In fact, it was one of the first poses I did postpartum—supported, of course, and under the guidance of a physical therapist. On its face, Bridge is not a challenging pose, but when you really tune into your body and breath, even slight adjustments (squeeze those pelvic floor muscles, press those hands into the floor!) make it work for you. As a restorative pose, Bridge is the reset my lower back craves post-walk or hike. But when I want to take it up a notch, I add in some single-leg variations or raise and lower my hips. The next thing I know, I’ve had a little workout—all without standing up!” Erin Skarda, Digital Director
Bridge Pose improves posture and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting and computer work. It may help relieve low back pain and can counteract slouching and kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine). The pose gently stretches your abdomen, chest, and the area around your shoulders while strengthening your back muscles, buttocks (glutes), thighs, and ankles.
Bridge Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
- Lie supine on the floor, and if necessary, place a thickly folded blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible.
- Exhale and, pressing your inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
- Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the navel.
- Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and, firming the shoulder blades against your back, press the top of the sternum toward the chin. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck (where it’s resting on the blanket) up into the torso.
- Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.
Teaching Bridge Pose
- Use this posture to open up the heart and back body to warm up for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose or Wheel Pose) toward the end of your practice. When you are done backbending in your sequence, counter with gentle forward folds or supine twists.
Bridge Pose Variation
Try with a block between your thighs to focus on inner thigh strength.