Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Keep your palms adjacent to the body, facing down. Press your feet and arms on the floor, inhale, lift your hips and chest, rolling your spine off the floor. Keep your knees hip-width apart. Hold the pose for 4-8 breaths. Feel the pressure on your lower spine. Exhale and slowly roll your spine back to the floor.
Our backbone bears the brunt of our modern sedentary lifestyle and the inordinate amount of time that we spend flopped into our chairs and stooped over our desks.
Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) stretches your lower back, and restores elasticity of the lower part of the backbone and spinal cord. It is easy to do and highly effective.
Steps To Perform Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Lie down on your back, breathing normally for half a minute. You don’t want to get into the asana feeling out of breath, because that will cause your muscles to tense up.
- Bend both your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. The closer your feet are to your hips, the better. Again, continue to breathe normally.
- Your arms should be adjacent to your body, palms facing downwards, fingertips lightly touching the heels.
- Press your feet and arms into the floor, inhale, lift your hips and roll your spine off the floor.
- Press down into the arms and shoulders to lift the chest up. Use your buttocks and legs to lift the hips higher.
Hold this position, breathing normally for 20-30 seconds and observe the effect on this position on your spine.
Where do you feel the pressure? Does it ebb as you inhale and exhale, or does it remain constant? Does the pressure increase or decrease? Are you holding your breath, subconsciously or are you breathing normally?
- Ideally, you should feel mild pressure (the kind of good pain that you feel when you stretch) in your lower back, focused in the center around the spine. The pressure and pain should decrease as you hold the position – it means you can lift your hips a bit more to get an even better stretch.
- Try squeezing the knees together and moving them apart, and observe how the pressure shifts to a narrower and broader region around your lower spine, respectively.
Remember, you are in charge of your body. Be ready to observe, and let your body guide you towards mastery.
Tips To Check If You Are Doing It Right
- If you are not feeling any pressure or pain, you should check if you have got the pose right. Most likely, you are not lifting your hips sufficiently to arch your back.
- If you are feeling pressure in your upper back region, shoulders or neck, you are probably pulling the shoulders forcefully away from your ears, which tends to overstretch the neck. Instead, push the inner shoulder blades away from the spine.
- If you are feeling the pressure in your knees and thighs, instead of your lower back, you need to get your feet closer to your hips.
Exiting The Pose
Exhale and slowly roll the spine back to the floor. Avoid the tendency to pull out of the pose too quickly. While your lower back is free to move, your neck and head are touching the floor and constrained – they will feel the impact of sudden movements.
If you have difficulty supporting the weight of your body in the pose after taking it away from the floor, ask someone to slide a bolster pillow under your lower back for support.
- Stretches the lower spine, chest and neck
- Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
- Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid
- Rejuvenates tired legs
- Improves digestion and strengthens abdominal organs
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache and insomnia
- Stimulates endocrine and nervous systems
People with recent or chronic injury to the knees, shoulders or back must refrain from trying out this yoga pose.