This is a wonderful supported variation of Setu Bandhasana, also known as the Bridge Pose. You need to have a few props to complete this variation – two rectangular bolsters (or several neatly folded blankets to mimic a bolster), a strap and possibly an extra blanket.
Place two vertical rectangular bolsters end to end on your yoga mat. Bind a yoga strap into a large loop and have it handy beside you. Sit in the center of the bolsters and bind the yoga strap around your mid-thighs. It is important that the rings of the strap are not on your thighs and also that your thighs are not pushed together. Instead, bind the strap so that your knees are in line with your hips and your legs fall outward being supported by the strap. This is the whole idea, so it doesn’t feel like you will fall off the bolster. You feel totally supported, so you can let go easier.
Once you have thighs bound, lower your body down to bolsters to catch the bottom of your shoulder blades on the front edge of the bolster allowing you to open your chest and rest the top of shoulders and back of head to the mat. Make sure that your head is on the yoga mat and not on the floor. Your head and shoulders should be in the same plane.
Arm Options: 1) Place your arms into a T-shape with palms facing upward (as in photo). 2) Place your arms into cowboy surrender arms with elbows flexed at ribcage height and palms facing upward. 3) Fold arms loosely overhead. It is not necessary to grasp your elbows here. You want to let go completely. If you choose this option, halfway through your designated time to practice, switch the bottom and top arms.
Relax the muscles of the face, jaw and eyes. You may close your eyes here to help relax further. Allow a gentle arch of the back to open the chest and lungs. Notice your breath here and try to take the breath higher up into the upper lungs/chest area. You may stay in this pose for 5-10 minutes depending upon how much you love it. It does feel great! It takes us away from our computer life.
To exit asana, do so with an exhalation. Reach for the strap and loosen it slightly. If you have an injury, you will decide which side you will want to avoid rolling to. For example, if you have an injury on the left side of your body, then place your right foot onto the floor beside the bolster, then you will roll off the bolsters to the right, resting in the fetal position for a few breaths. From here, shift your pelvis slightly to the right, so you can hug your knees into your chest into Gas-Relieving Pose – Pavanmuktasana. Hands can be placed on the shins or to the backs of the thighs, whichever you prefer Then remove the strap completely.
Benefits of Bridge Pose:
Stretches pectorals, iliopsoas and quadriceps muscles. By using the bolsters, they help to create a support for your entire body enabling you to enjoy the asana for a longer period of time. Everyone loves a passive backbend!
Precautions and Modifications of Setu Bandhasana:
Arm positions were given above depending upon intensity of the backbend you wish to receive. For shoulder issues you would stay with Option 1). Normally, we do not place a blanket under our head in Setu Bandhasana because it is not only a backbend but also an inversion. But for those who can’t feel a release into the shoulders and they do not rest comfortably to the mat, you may place a small blanket or towel under your shoulders and even run this to support the upper arms if in Option 1). For those who feel discomfort in their ankles, place a rolled blanket under them on top of the bolster. Sometimes there are few students who, with chronic back pain, find this variation uncomfortable. To solve this issue, we still keep the bound thighs but have them keep their knees flexed and their feet resting on the bolster.
Mantrini (Helen) Mikuska, ERYT500, is and Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant with the American Institute of Vedic Sciences. She has studied with Dr. David Frawley and Aadil Palkhivala for more than 3500 hours. Mantrini is a SOYA Lead Trainer in Calgary, Alberta, and had been teaching for SOYA since 2009. Join Helen this summer for a 200hr or 300hr Yoga Teacher Training immersion, hosted at Helen’s studio Harmony Yoga and Pilates in Calgary, Alberta.