By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana, in this pose the practitioner assumes the shape of a bridge and hence the name – the bridge pose. This pose is also called as Setu Bandhasana which also means ‘bridge pose’. It is an inverted back-bend asana in hatha yoga practices. The pose appears as Kamapithasana explained in the 19th century book Sritattvanidhi.
It is one of the basic backbend poses. It prepares your body to perform other advanced yoga poses. It is also an intermediate level pose done in lying down position. It effectively stretches your back, neck, chest and relaxes your body.
It is a bridge which connects us to our interior. It establishes the connection of body, breath and mind and their connection with our inner selves, the spirit.
Read – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body
Sethu Bandha – Bridge
Sarvanga = shoulder stand
Asana = Pose
Sethu = bridge, Bandha = lock, Asana – posture
Setu = Bridge, Bandha = Bind, Sarva = All, Anga = Limb, Asana = Pose
Preparation for Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana
- Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana should be done on empty stomach, preferably early morning for empty stomach.
- If it is to be done at other part of the day, one needs to take food 3-4 hours before doing the asana. This will keep one on empty stomach while performing the pose.
- One needs to keep their bowel and bladder empty while taking on to the pose.
Read – Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand Pose, Method, Benefits, Dosha Effect
Method of doing
Positioning for the Asana
- To start with lie flat on your back comfortably stretching your legs on a yoga mat.
Performing the asana
- Bend your knees.
- Pull your legs back and place feet on the floor hip-width apart. Now your ankles and knees are placed in one straight line with knees pointing the ceiling and feet pressing against the ground. Don’t place the heels too close to your body (butts). Don’t let your knees to fall too much outwards or inwards.
- See that your arms are resting beside your body, palms facing downwards.
- Tighten your thighs and quads.
- Lift your entire back off the floor gradually. When you do this you should experience the gradual lift of your back, vertebra by vertebra off the ground. Be aware of your lower back going up slowly followed by your middle back a little more higher and then your upper back moving up in that order.
- Role in your shoulders, this opens up your chest and sternum too.
- Your chin should now touch your chest even when you do not move it voluntarily.
- Now your shoulders, arms and feet are supporting the entire weight of your body.
- Tighten your butts and firm them up. Your thighs should be parallel to each other and the floor.
- Be here for few breaths. When you breathe in your chest will open up, your belly comes out and when you breathe out your abdomen will fall and later your chest should collapse gradually.
- Now interlace your fingers beneath the arch of back while pushing hands harder to the ground. This will also help to lift torso higher.
- Hold in this posture for at least 60 seconds. Breathe deep and slowly.
Release from the asana
- Release interlocked fingers.
- Gradually bring your back to the floor.
- Extend legs to the point of start. Bring hands beside body.
- Breathe easily and relax.
Note – The pose can also be entered from Sarvangasana i.e. shoulder stand. The full pose has the knees bent and ankles caught (bandha) by the hands. One can release from this asana either by lying down or by jumping back into the shoulder stand.
Read – Ardha Bhekasana – Half Frog Pose, How To Do, Benefits, Dosha Effects
Do not pull your shoulders too far away from ears when you roll them underneath. If you do this it will overstretch your neck. Now lift shoulder tops slowly towards ear while pushing the insides of shoulder blades away from spine.
Advanced Pose Variations
Once you are comfortable in the pose try to go deep into it. Lift heels off the floor and push your tailbone up, closer to the pubis.
The practitioner may also try doing Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand. From the shoulder supported bridge pose, lift right knee, right into the torso. Inhale and stretch leg such that it is perpendicular to the floor. Stay here for at least 30 seconds. Later exhale and release foot. Lock in the foot again. Repeat the same steps on the opposite leg and be there for the same amount of time.
- Strengthens back muscles
- Stretches and relieves back stress
- Stretches and tones the neck, chest / thorax and spine
- Strengthens legs, back, neck and chest
- Good exercise for triceps, biceps, quadriceps, hips and psoas.
- Relieves backache and neck strain
- Makes shoulders strong, cures sagged shoulders.
- Strengthens calves and thigh muscles and hence beneficial for athletes.
- Cures leg fatigue.
- Burns excess belly and chest fat.
- Massages digestive organs, improves digestion
- Expands chest muscles and opens up lungs. This cures asthma and removes impurities from the lung.
- Good for heart muscles and provides rest to them. The pose prevents cardiac arrest or blockage from these occurring in future.
- Improves blood circulation
- Prevents varicose veins.
- Comforts nervous system.
- Reduces thyroid problems
- Beneficial in sinusitis, high blood pressure, insomnia and osteoporosis
- Alleviates menstrual pain and eases menopause symptoms
- Reduces depression, anxiety and stress
- Calms mind
- Releases negative emotions.
Philosophy and science behind the bridge pose
This pose totally opens up heart, chest and shoulders. It gives a good stretch to the back of neck, flexors of hip, spine and thighs.
In this pose heart is higher than head. Therefore it is considered as a mild form of inversion. It also bestows all benefits of inversion and relieves many disorders including fatigue, stress, depression, anxiety, headaches and insomnia. It calms mind. Corrects blood pressure.
It enables in increasing the lung capacity as it opens up your chest and hence provides relief from asthma. It sets right and regulates your metabolism as it stimulates your thyroids. It provides a massaging effect to your knees and shoulders as it stretches them. Therefore it is good for those in seated jobs. The pose also relaxes refreshes and rejuvenates you.
- Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
- Virasana – Hero Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward facing dog pose
Follow Up Poses
- Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand
- Chakrasana – Wheel Pose
- Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand
- Urdhwa Dhanurasana – Upward Bow Pose
Time spent in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Hold in the final pose for a count of 4-5 breaths or for 30-60 seconds. Start with 30 seconds if you are a beginner. Gradually extend the pose to 60 seconds or to whatever time comfortable to be in.
Watch this video to follow the method of doing Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana
Impact on Chakras
This pose stimulates root chakra, throat chakra – Vishuddha and heart chakra – Anahata. When balanced, the root chakra enables you to remain connected, the throat chakra improves expressions and communication and the heart chakra promotes love, warmth and healing.
Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana –
- Neck injuries
- Back problems
Pregnant women may avoid it. If needed it should be done under the guidance of a Yoga expert but not to the full capacity. In 3rd trimester it should be done with consent of your doctor. Once in the pose do not adjust neck. This may harm your spinal cord.
Read – Cervical Spondylosis: Ayurvedic Treatment
Impact of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana on doshas and tissues
Impact on Doshas and its subtypes – Setu Nandha Sarvangasana pose has a balancing effect on pachaka pitta and samana vata since it helps in improving digestive functions. Since it opens up chest and increases lung capacity and also cures asthma and other lung disorders, good for heart and circulation, relieves hypertension and thyroid disorders, it can be thought of as having balancing effect on the udana vata and avalambaka kapha. This is also supported by the fact that this pose balances the heart chakra and throat chakra. Since it comforts nervous system, relieves mind symptoms and negative emotions, helps combating anxiety, insomnia and stress, the pose balances prana vata, sadhaka pitta and tarpaka kapha. It also balances apana vata as seen by its role in relieving menopause symptoms and eases menstrual pain and also since it stimulates and energizes root chakra.
Impact on tissues – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana stretches and strengthens the muscles and spine and also improves the flexibility therein. Therefore it is good for the muscles, joints, soft tissues and bone tissue and also for the channels transporting these tissues. Since it removes excessive fat from around the belly and thorax, it is good for fat tissue and the related channels. The pose enables good circulation of blood in the body and is hence good for rasa tissue and rasa carrying channels. The pose helps those having osteoporosis and hence good for bone tissue and bone transporting channels.