Bridge posture is known as Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana in Sanskrit, and it is one of the most commonly practiced heart openers. This posture is a wonderful introduction into the world of heart openers (also known as backbends by some) and can be done in a very active, challenging fashion, or in a very passive, supported way.
No matter how you choose to practice this pose it brings some awesome health benefits to the table. Lets take a look at the top five!
1. Strengthens Legs and Feet
When you are practicing this posture, your feet should be hips distance apart, with your toes pointing straight ahead. While you are up in the pose you will be strongly activating your hamstrings to get the elevation in your hips, and you will also be energetically drawing your thighs in towards one another, which will strengthen your adductor muscles. This pose is also awesome for training the feet, pressing them firmly down into the mat to assist your lift, which will help you in all postures where your feet are on the ground.
2. Opens Hips
If you are like 99% of the population, you most likely sit for extended periods of time during the day. This can cause an excessive tightening of the hip flexors, and an excessive lengthening of the muscles in the lower back – which, over time, will lead to imbalances in the skeletal structure and most likely pain.
Bridge posture helps to reverse this flexion of the hip flexors, opening your hips up, creating length where there needs to be length, and tension where tension is needed. This is a great pose to do after a long day at the office, or even to do on your lunch break to counter act sitting!
3. Opens Shoulders
Much like the point above, many people spend countless hours hunched over a desk or a computer, causing the shoulders to round and droop forward. This will cause a tension in the chest and excessive lengthening, and therefore weakening, of the muscles in the upper back and neck.
When you are in bridge pose you will be rolling onto the tops of your shoulders, pressing into the ground firmly with your extended arms opening the chest and strengthening the upper back. This pose is very restorative for anyone who notices that they droop in the shoulders – be that while standing or sitting.
4. Cultivates New Awareness In The Lower Body
If you have practiced yoga for any length of time, you are most likely aware that squeezing the butt is something that is rarely - if ever - practiced during asana. Squeezing your butt is also exactly what you are going to want to do when you first get into this pose. So how do you hold bridge without squeezing your butt?
You engage the muscles in your legs of course! This pose will help you to develop new and deeper awareness of the muscles in your legs, and will help you to build strength in your supporting muscles in your legs and hips.
5. Calming For The Mind
This pose will have you drawing your chin in towards your chest, which means that it is a cooling posture. If you are holding this pose using your muscular strength, it may not feel all that calming, but energetically it is still a cooling pose. If you use a block under your hips to prop yourself up, then this pose will really feel cooling and grounding.
Add in some long, slow deep breaths and allow this pose to bring you back down to earth.
Do you practice this posture on a regular basis? Why or why not?