Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Bridge Pose

Setu Bandha Sarvang asana is known more commonly by its English name, the Bridge Pose. The Sanskrit name Setu Bandha Sarvangasana literally translates into construction of a bridge❠through the word setu meaning bridge, bandha meaning lock, Sarvanga meaning limb, and asana meaning posture, all pertaining to the stretch of the Bridge pose. It can be surprisingly more difficult than it initially appears, since you have to get the full back pack and not just lift your body parallel to the ground in a more rectangular looking position.

If you’re having difficulty initially in regards to the flexibility required, it would be a good idea to use a less extreme bend at first and then building up gradually to the final position. Begin by lying faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides. As you start the pose, ensure that you keep your feet parallel and shoulder width apart the entire time, heels kept under your knees. To begin lifting into the pose, turn your upper arms open upwards to expand your chest. Ground yourself by keeping your force on your outer upper arms and heels. Then lift your knees forward to lift your hips off the floor. Once you’ve gotten enough height in your backbend, push your shoulders on the mat to under your chest and interlace your shoulders to add another element of difficulty to the pose.

If your shoulders are tight and more stressed than you think they should be, hold the sides of your yoga mat to create more space rather than interlacing your hands and compressing the space between your shoulders further. You could also try using a yoga block in the position to help the stretch by lessening the height your back needs to fully complete the bend. The position of the backbend created by Setu Bandha Sarvangasana obviously opens your chest and acts to create a stretch in neck and spine. Drop the pose once it starts burning, as the pose can easily cause stress on the knees, shoulders, and back. Once you’ve become more familiar with the pose and can hold it for longer periods of time, you’ll find that it can help calm your mind and thus reduce anxiety. Physically, Setu Bandha Sarvang asana will increase your core and lower body strength to help build your abdominal muscles. Surprisingly enough, it can also help improve digestion by expanding your abdominal area, and stimulate your endocrine (hormone) and nervous system.

Despite the physical strain of this pose, you should also try to keep your mind clear. Rather than focusing on how difficult the pose is, focus on your breathing in and out. Throughout the entire pose, you should be focusing on your breathing and trying to keep it at roughly the same speed and intensity. Yoga isn’t as harshly intensive as something like sprinting would be, but it’s still intensive ultimately. The more you practice yoga, the easier it should be to maintain your breathing pattern and the easier it should be to keep a relaxed mental state. TIP – Take Your Shoes Off As you can see, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or Bridge pose, has your feet firmly pressed against the mat with the force of your body’s weight. Knowing that, be aware that pretty much all yoga classes will have a strict no-shoe policy. Now, I’m an avid shoe-lover myself, whether it be sandals, flats, high heels, flip flops, or those new sneakers you’ve been meaning to wear to complete the whole gym look complete with yoga pants and a ponytail. However, being fashionable most often doesn’t mean being practical.

Ponytails can end up becoming extremely uncomfortable in positions involving lying down. Especially in the case of SetuBandhaSarvangasana, a lot of force will be distributed through your head, meaning that if you have a ponytail, it can quickly become an hard ridge pushing into your skull. I’ve found that low ponytails, buns/top knots, or even braids can help distribute your weight into becoming less uncomfortable in such positions. As for your shoes, realize that it is critical you leave your shoes at the door or near your gym bag once you enter the room. You will be interacting a lot with your mat with all parts of your body, including your hands, arms, legs, and feet, so if you don’t take off your shoes before you begin, you will one hundred percent end up dirtying your mat with whatever you track in with your shoes. Most gyms and yoga classes will offer cubbies or lockers as well, so you don’t have to worry about anyone stealing or accidentally taking your personal items by mistake while you’re deep in meditation. If you’re using the communal yoga mats and blocks provided by a gym and worry about them being unhygienic, consider buying a cheap personal mat from a local store or carrying a disinfectant spray cleaner with you to the gym. Even if you have a personal mat, it’s a good idea to spray it with a disinfectant cleaner occasionally as well. Although no one else will be using the mat, your sweat and unavoidable dirt will still be getting on the mat during each yoga session, so it’s better to be safe than sorry with an occasional clean.
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