SmartMat Pose of The Week – Bridge Pose
Depending how you use it, Bridge Pose, Setubandhasana, can be stimulating or restorative. “Setu” means bridge or dam, and Bandha means “lock,” not as in a key lock, but more in terms of an irrigation lock – a way to channel the energy of a system in a certain direction by creating a specific pathway for it.
Whether it’s done to stimulate the body or restore it, Bridge pose is deeply therapeutic either way. It positions the body to stretch the spine; the back of the neck; and the hip flexors (front hip joints) while simultaneously opening the heart, chest, and shoulders. By channeling the energy smoothly up and down the length of the spine, Bridge pose can provide relief from stress, fatigue, anxiety, even headaches and mild depression.
But, as with any pose, we must choose alignment carefully in order to receive maximum benefits and achieve optimal flow of energy. In Bridge pose, this means taking special care to watch out for straining the low back.
A Happy Back From the Ground Up
In Bridge Pose, many mistakenly assume that the goal is to thrust the pelvis up as high and as hard as they can to make space between their back and the floor. We often do this to compensate for weak core muscles. Unfortunately, by thrusting your hips up, you most likely jam the low back and compromise the grounding of the pose. The tell-tale sign that this misalignment is happening in your practice shows up in the way the feet and the legs are positioned. In order to aggressively push the hips up super high, many splay out the knees and lose grounding under the inside edges of their feet.
It might look something like this:
The result with this misalignment is that instead of flowing the energy up evenly over the whole length of the spine, it gets diverted right around the lower back. The discs between the vertebrae are overly compressed, and the core is not able to properly engage. It might feel like you’re in the pose, but the foundation is suspect, and often not very comfortable either.
If we go back to the image of our irrigation canals, imagine at a crucial turn in the irrigation system that there was a jammed lock, and all the water started to leak out instead of continuing upward along its path. Similarly, when we misalign this way in Bridge pose, our subtle energy can’t travel up the central energy channel of the spine, providing us with the invigoration and restoration that this pose is so well known for.
A Smart Way to Adjust
A simple adjustment, but one that often gets overlooked because we can’t see our feet while in the pose is to make sure the feet are parallel, hip-width apart, and that you are applying equal pressure under all four corners of the feet. It will look more like this:
It will be so much easier to know when you’ve hit this alignment exactly when you get direct feedback from the weight and alignment sensors in your SmartMat. Being so focused on the sensations happening in the chest and upper back, many gloss over what’s happening in their base and compromise the pose at its roots.
An amazing shift happens for the yogi when the base is lined up properly and the grounding is secure under the feet. The energy starts to flow in the right direction without the force or thrust in the pelvis that so many of think is necessary to get into this pose. Ironically, the less you push, the more the pose will open up. All you need to do is optimize the alignment and stabilize the base, and the energy will be directed exactly where it needs to go.
This is a profound lesson. When we release the tendency to push aggressively through things and override our own sensitivity, and instead use our knowledge to wisely position ourselves to be receptive to the natural energetic flow, a great ease can come over the body and mind.
And perhaps this is what bridge pose is all about…helping us bridge back to the natural and inherent wisdom within our bodies…once we get our egos out of the way.
Keep practicing! Namaste.