Setu bandha sarvangasana, or "Bridge Pose," is a particularly enjoyable and relaxing backward bending exercise. It gives a good stretch to the chest, neck, and spine, and helps to open the pelvis, groin, and hip area. It brings a fresh supply of richly oxygenated blood to the legs and lungs, rejuvenating tired legs and helping to relieve chest problems such as congestion and breathing disorders.
To prepare for Bridge Pose, lie flat on your back with your arms alongside your body a few inches away from each side of the torso, palms facing down. Bend your legs and bring the heels of your feet as close to the buttocks as possible, your feet parallel to one another or slightly pigeon-toed (the toes of the feet pointing slightly inward).
As you exhale, press your feet and arms into the ground as you lift the pelvis off the floor. Lift the buttocks as you peel them off the floor. Open the front hip creases. Gradually lift your back off the floor as you lift your buttocks higher. Unstack your vertebrae from the floor—one by one—beginning with those at the base of the spine and progressing up to the very top of the shoulders. As your upper back lifts off the floor, try to press your shoulders closer to the ground by sliding your hands under your back. If this pose is easy and comfortable for you so far, try going deeper in the pose by grasping your palms together under your back on the floor and interlacing your fingers. Rock your upper back gently from side to side to allow you to press your shoulder blades closer together. If this refinement is too challenging for you, then let your arms rest firmly on the floor in front of you, as illustrated in Fig. YPS.11.
Hold Bridge Pose for several breaths. Feel an entire wave of relaxation spreading down your back as it widens and opens—all the way from the top of the shoulders to the base of the spine. When you are ready to release your body from Bridge Pose, exhale and gently release your spine and buttocks to the floor, beginning at the shoulders and moving down to the middle back, the lower back, and finally the buttocks. Repeat Bridge Pose one or two more times. When you have finished with Bridge Pose, unbend your knees and straighten your legs as you allow them to return back down to the floor, spread out about hip-width apart. Roll your legs from side to side. Rest and relax. Take a moment to register how you feel after having completed Bridge Pose.
Take a moment to remind yourself of what a good job you are doing. You are helping your back to remain healthy and stress-free with this basic yet complete series of yoga postures.
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