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Bridge Pose – Benefits, Tips, Variations

Bridge Pose – Benefits, Tips, Variations

Reading Time: 5 minutes


DATE: 2024-05-06

Bridge pose is a beginner yoga asana that is accessible for most people. It provides several benefits, including those that help counteract sitting at a desk all day. Try this pose toward the end of a yoga sequence, when taking a break from your desk, or at the end of a long day.

About Bridge Pose (setu bandha sarvangasana)

Bridge is a versatile pose you can do as part of a workout to strengthen specific muscles or as a restorative practice. It is a beginner pose that can also be modified for certain limitations or for a greater challenge. 

The Sanskrit name for bridge pose is setu bandha sarvangasana, which roughly translates to bridge, bind all limb pose. It is named for the bridge shape the body makes in this backward arching pose. 

Bridge pose strengthens muscles along the posterior chain and stretches the front of the body. It opens the chest and stretches tight hip flexors, major benefits for anyone who sits most of the day. It’s a great place to start for anyone who cannot yet do the more intense back bending poses. 

Benefits of Bridge Pose

Bridge is a versatile and useful pose for several reasons. As a beginner pose, nearly anyone can do it and it takes just a few minutes to get lasting benefits. 

Open and Stretch the Chest and Hips

The amazing stretch you get across the front of the body is what makes this a restorative pose. You’ll feel the stretch across neck, chest, abdomen, hip flexors, and quads. Opening the chest helps you breathe and relieves pressure on organs, aiding digestion. 

Strengthen the Back and Glutes

On the other side of your body, the muscles flex to support this pose. Bridge pose strengthens your back, hamstring, and glute muscles. Strengthening the lower back can help relieve pain here. Your arms and shoulders also activate to hold you in this pose, so you can build some strength in these areas too. 

These other poses will help you build even more back strength and help relieve pain. 

Counteract the Effects of Sitting

If you sit most of the day, as many people do, you likely have tight hips and hunched shoulders, a posture that puts pressure on internal organs. The posture of the bridge pose is essentially the opposite of sitting. It opens and stretches the chest, rolls the spine, pulls the shoulders back, and lengthens the hip flexors. It is a great antidote for sitting. 

Mental Health Benefits

Inversion poses, like a headstand, provide some excellent mental health benefits. They calm the mind and reduce anxiety, stress, and fatigue. You don’t have to go fully upside down to get these benefits. Bridge is a gentle and accessible type of inversion that will help you feel more relaxed, calm, and restored. 

If you’re interested in bridge pose for relaxation, try these other highly restorative yoga poses

Step-by-Step Guide to Bridge Pose

Bridge pose is a beginner asana, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy on your first attempt. Take it slowly and ease into the pose with control. If you can’t do the full pose yet, try modifications and work up to the full position. 

  1. Lie on your back on a yoga mat. 

  2. Bend at the knees and place your feet flat on the mat about hip-width apart. 

  3. Extend and rest your arms on the mat. Your feet should be positioned so that you can just touch the backs of your heels with your fingertips. 

  4. Press your feet and arms into the mat and engage your core as you lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Your lower and middle back will also lift, leaving your head, shoulders, and upper back on the mat. 

  5. Clasp your hands together under your body as you contract the glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles to hold the position. 

  6. To come out of the pose, release your hands and gently lower your hips back to the floor. 

Beginner Tips and Common Mistakes

As with most beginner asanas, there’s more to bridge pose than meets the eye. It’s a simple pose accessible to most people, but not necessarily easy. If you’re new to the pose, try these tips and watch out for common positioning mistakes: 

  • As you raise your hips, really press your feet into the mat. This provides much of the momentum for the lift. 

  • Pay attention to your knees and make sure they do not fall outward. They should remain mostly in line with your feet. 

  • Engage your core in the lift to avoid overextending and stressing the lower back. Focus on keeping your spine neutral. 

  • Keep your neck relaxed. Ease up on the lift if you find yourself straining at the neck. 

  • If your other muscles aren’t strong enough yet to hold this position, place a yoga block under your lower back for a supported bridge pose. Lift up a little more to engage the muscles and then rest on the block as needed. 

  • Don’t forget to breathe. This pose can be very relaxing, especially if you remember to breathe deeply and regularly throughout it. 

Learn more about yoga blocks: Top Benefits of Using Yoga Props for Beginners and Advanced

Modifications for Bridge Pose

You might not be strong enough to perform the full bridge pose. Take it slowly and try a modification as you build strength. Instead of lifting your hips as high as you can, only lift them about halfway. Keep your arms and hands on the mat. Repeat this lift a few times, engaging your hamstrings, glutes, and back. Work toward holding the lift longer and extending it into the full position. 

Bridge Pose Variations

Variations of the bridge pose can make it more challenging, increasing the stretch and building even more strength: 

  • One-leg bridge pose. For a more intense strength workout, go into bridge pose and lift one leg. Raise it straight out, staying in line with the other leg, or point your toe up toward the ceiling. Repeat on the other leg. 

  • Raised arms. To get more of an opening stretch, start in bridge pose. Instead of putting your arms behind your back, clasp your hands in front and raise your arms over your head. 

  • Wheel pose. When bridge pose becomes easier, try the more difficult wheel pose. This is a full back bend and inversion pose. Place your palms on the floor to the sides of your head, fingers pointing toward your feet. Push up, arching the back until your arms are extended and only your feet and hands touch the floor. 

Safety and Contraindications

Bridge pose is generally safe, but there might be some reasons you shouldn’t do the complete pose or do it at all. Avoid this and similar poses if you are dealing with a neck or back injury or have recently had neck or back surgery. If you’re not sure if your neck and back can handle the position, talk to your doctor. 

Expand Your Yoga Practice: Earn Your RTY-200 Certification

Bridge pose should be a regular part of most yoga routines. It’s a great antidote to the sedentary nature of everyday life, providing a stretch, strength building, and stress relief. 

The ISSA’s Yoga Alliance-approved 200-hour yoga teacher training program is an online, self-paced course recognized and approved by the Yoga Alliance, the leading industry organization. It’s not just for future instructors! This course is also ideal for anyone who loves yoga and wants to learn more for their own practice. 

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Yoga | Yoga 200 Product Page

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