How to do the Setu Bandha Sarvangasana Pose
Follow these steps to learn how to do bridge pose flawlessly.
- Lie supine on the mat with your palms planted by your sides. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip distance apart with your heels tucked close behind your buttocks.
- Scoop your pubis towards your navel to bring your tailbone down onto the mat. Maintaining this pelvic tilt throughout the pose will strengthen the lower back muscles and prevent swayback.
- Exhale and push off of your feet and hands to raise your hips. Avoid splaying your knees by keeping your thighs and feet parallel to each other as you lift up. If possible, raise your hips until your knees are bent at 90° angles.
- Bridge pose is, partially, a shoulder stand (see “sarvangasana” in its Sanskrit name). Roll your shoulder blades back, slowly shifting weight onto the tops of your shoulders.
- Release your palms and clasp your hands together below your pelvis, pushing down lightly against the mat. This arm position should help keep your shoulder blades back.
- Work with your upper back by bringing your chin slightly back, away from your chest. Then gently push your chest up into the place where your chin used to be. Push your shoulder blades back and lift the space between your shoulder blades and neck up towards your chest.
- Breathe and hold the pose.
- Exhale. Transition your weight off your shoulders and lower your back onto the mat vertebra by vertebra, starting with the upper back. Hug your knees to your chest and rock gently left and right.
Modifications and Props
Weak Knees Modification
To prevent knee strain, support your lower back with your arms in bridge pose. After lifting into bridge, bend your elbows and place them directly under your lower back. Then place your hands on your hips for support. This modification will take weight off of weak knees.
Shoulder Pose (Kandharasana)
Begin this variation lying supine on the mat with your knees bent and your feet planted hip distance apart. Grab ahold of your right and left ankles with your hands. Raise your hips as high as possible without straining and lift your chest upwards and back towards your chin.
One Legged Bridge Pose (Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Take yoga setu bandhasana pose. Exhale. Lift your right knee up. Inhale and extend the leg straight out, perpendicular to the floor. Breath and hold the pose. Exhale and release. Inhale, exhale, and repeat with the left leg.
Gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. In bridge yoga pose, the gluteus maximus does the heavy lifting. For optimal results, avoid clenching the buttocks as you lift up. The gluteal muscles should be firm in the pose, but not hard.
Pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles run between your legs, from the pubic bone to the base of the spine. They support the bladder, rectum, and (in women) the vagina and uterus. Sarvangasana for beginners engages the pelvic floor for benefits similar to Kegel exercises.
Abdominal muscles. The abdominals are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. Yoga setu bandhasana pose works the rectus abdominus (your six pack) in particular. Strengthening the rectus abdominus and the erector spinae stabilizes the spine and improves posture.
Erector spinae. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles are closely linked with posture. Back bending poses, like bridge yoga pose, engage the erector spinae.
Want to try a more advanced move, check out the plow pose for beginners.
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