Gruninger: Yoga Therapy – Bridge Pose A Deux

By JACCI GRUNINGER, MS, C-IATY, ERYT500
Los Alamos

Last week, I shared about Bridge Pose (Setu Bhandasana) as a strengthening pose. However, many poses in yoga can be used for lengthening, strengthening and resting depending on how you practice the pose.

This week we will look at Bridge Pose as a front body opener and restorative or resting back backbend.

Supported Bridge Pose is one of those poses that can help support healing and a sense of wellbeing for many of our everyday stresses, aches and pains.

In another column I will share more but one of the reasons this is such a powerful pose to help with stress is the placement of the head. When your head is below your heart and in a flexed or neutral position it triggers what is called a baroreflex reaction.

In short, it triggers the sympathetic nervous system (our flight or fight system) to deactivate or relax. This causes a body-wide or system-wide sense of relaxation. Who doesn’t need that?

The key is to make sure the chin draws toward rather than away from the neck (know that to do this you might need a small folded towel or blanket under your head).

Supported bridge pose also stretches or lengthens the hip flexors (psoas). Great for runners, hikers and others who use their legs. It opens the pectoralis or chest muscles and can be helpful for low back pain and issues with digestion. This posture also helps slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure.

There are a few reasons to avoid this pose such as neck disc issues or herniations, glaucoma or if you have a detached retina. This is due to being upside down.

Here’s how to get into the posture: 

  • Gather your props: a yoga mat, yoga block and or yoga bolster or couch pillow.
  • Lie on your mat with your block or bolster nearby arms at your sides.
  • Exhale, press into your feet and lift your hips off the ground.
  • Place your block or bolster under your pelvis – halfway on your low back and halfway on your buttocks. Both props should be placed widthwise across your lower back.
  • Start with the block on its lowest height. You can then explore placing it on it’s middle height. There should be no pain or discomfort while you are in the postures.
  • Adjust your feet to a place of comfort. You can also “teepee” them in toward one another with your feet wide.
  • Relax your neck, throat and jaw, as well as your facial muscles. Breathe deeply. You can stay here for as little as a minute or two or for longer—up to 15 to 20 minutes—if it’s comfortable.
  • To release the pose, lift your hips off the block or bolster. Remove the block and set it aside. Slowly lower your spine to neutral.
  • Stay here for several breaths, allowing your back body to soften into your mat.
  • When you are ready to get up, roll to one side, stay there for a few breaths and then press up to sitting.
  • Enjoy this posture at the end of your day to let go of any stress you might be feeling and you even might sleep more soundly!

Jacci Gruninger is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Thai Yoga Massage Therapist. She has been teaching for more than two decades and spent 12 of those years training yoga teachers for the Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts. She regularly helps clients manage the ups and downs of life with yoga, meditation, breathwork and bodywork. Her office is at 190 Central Park Square #209. For her in person and online teaching schedule and information on other services, visit www.yogawithjacci.com.

Bridge pose with a bolster. Courtesy photo

Bridge pose with a block. Courtesy photo

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