Setu Bandha Sarvangasana Bridge Pose

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Yes, setu bandha sarvangasana (pronounced SAY-too BAHN-dah SAHR-vahn-GAH-sah-nah) looks like a bridge. Setu means "bridge," and sarvangasana is composed of sarva (all), anga (limb), and of course, asana (posture). Setu bandha sarvangasana also strengthens the neck and back; tones the entire spine; builds supple wrists; and bathes the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands in blood and other nutrients. The bridge pose helps intestinal function as well. This pose is a good preliminary to the shoulderstand.

The bridge pose.

Lie flat on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, about hip-distance apart. Keep your hands to your sides.

Grab hold of your ankles and bring them directly under your bent knees. Lift your hips, creating a bridge shape. Place your hands under your lower back for support, pointing your fingers in toward your spine. Keep your elbows next to your body. Your head, neck, and shoulders should stay on the floor.

Tighten the buttocks muscles to support your lifted torso. Make sure your knees are aligned with your ankles, that they face forward, and that they don't fall in or out as you hold the pose.

4. Getting Started: If the bridge pose is too difficult, start with a half bridge pose. Clasp your hands under your body, drawing your elbows in so your arms are straight and resting on the floor underneath you. Concentrate on lifting your body as high as you can. This pose builds strength and flexibility to prepare your body for the full bridge pose.

The extended bridge pose.

5. Yoga Adventure: For an even greater strength challenge, try the extended bridge pose. Walk your feet out, away from your body, until your legs are straight. Keep those abdominals lifted and buttocks muscles working—you don't want your bridge to sag! The extended bridge is a very difficult pose that takes a lot of torso strength. Be kind to your back. If it hurts, you shouldn't do it. Remember yoga's first principle? Ahimsa—nonviolence. We are shaping our bodies into postures nonviolently. Through this process, we build bridges of peace!

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