Written by YTT student Kathleen Fleming
Setu Bandhasana or Bridge Pose: Setu means bridge | Bandha means lock
At this time of year when winter still has us deep in its embrace, we may become anxious for the warmth of spring to finally arrive. While the ground is covered in snow it is sometimes hard to believe that flowers will once again bloom. It is the nature of the mind to propel us forward into the future bringing us away from the gifts of the present – the snow glistening on the fields, the beauty of a winter sunset. Practicing setu bandhasana or bridge pose can help us stay grounded in the present moment while keeping us open to the possibilities of the future.
You can think of setu bandhasana as a bridge between many things: winter and spring, heaven and earth, body and spirit. Setu bandhasana creates a bridge between two opposing forces. While we root down firmly into the earth with our feet we simultaneously rise up and open our heart to the sky. This duality of action helps to anchor us in the physical body while connecting us to the spiritual realm.
Not only can setu bandhasana help us bridge between two opposing elements, it can also help to take us out of our daily pattern of always reaching forward. We spend lots of time hunching over our computers at work, texting on our phones, and at the steering wheel when driving. Even our reaction to fear is often to curl in and protect the heart – both literally and figuratively. This pose reminds us that we can face life’s challenges and fears with a different set of tools: as we press down with the feet we develop strength and courage to steady us; as we open through the heart center we cultivate compassion for both ourselves and others.
Setu bandhasana is both a beginning backbend and a gentle inversion and offers many emotional and physical benefits. The action of tucking the chin activates jalandhara bandha which quiets the mind helping to relieve stress and anxiety. It also stimulates anahata or the heart chakra which develops love and compassion. In the physical body it helps stimulate the thyroid gland and abdominal organs, strengthens the legs, hips and glutes, massages the spine and improves circulation and digestion.
Another nice thing about setu bandhasana is that can be as restorative or energizing as you like. To practice an energizing version you’ll press as much of the spine off the floor as you can coming into a deep backbend. For a more restorative pose you can use a block for support under the low back, close the eyes and breath deeply for several moments.
To come into the pose:
Lie on your back , knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Legs should be parallel to one another and about hip width apart. Slide the arms alongside the body with the palms facing down. The fingertips should be lightly touching the heels.
Press the feet into the floor, inhale and lift the hips up, slowly rolling the spine off the floor.
Press down into the arms and shoulders to lift the chest up. Engage the legs and buttocks to lift the hips higher. Interlace the hands together under your back, walk the shoulders in and press down with the arms and shoulders. Extend the tailbone toward the knees as you roll the inner thighs toward the floor. Arrive on an inhale.
Breathe easily and hold for several breaths.
To release, exhale and slowly roll the spine back to the floor.
Do not lift as high
Do not roll shoulders under
Use a block between knees
Use a strap between the hands
Use a block under low back as a restorative pose
Follow up poses:
Ananda Balasana/Happy Baby
Supta Matsyendrasana/ Spinal Twist