Backward Bends

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) on a single block

Bridge Pose on a block
Level: All levels

Setu = bridge. Bandha = Lock or restraint, refers to a pose where certain organs or body parts are contracted or controlled.

For more grounding through the legs, the pose can be done with the feet on the wall. To help keep the thighs turned in and the back wide, belt the thighs. Be very careful with this pose. The idea is to create a continuous arc from the feet to the head, not just to press the hips up as high as possible. Pushing the limits in this variation can be damaging to the sacrum. If in doubt, keep the block on its lowest setting, elevate the feet by having them on another block or bolster, or avoid the pose altogether.

Organizing the Pose

  1. Lie flat on the back.
  2. Bend the knees and place the feet flat to lift the hips and put the block under the sacrum.
  3. Extend the legs out.
  4. Roll the shoulders down into the floor and widen the collarbones.
  5. Put a shoulder-width belt around the wrists.
  6. Widen and lift the back.
  7. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
  8. Bend the legs, slide the block out from underneath you and release down from the pose.
  9. Draw the knees into the chest if you need to release the lower back or stretch the legs out to release the thighs.

Practice Points

  • Relax the buttocks completely, finding strength in the inner thighs instead as you roll them down towards the floor.
  • Lengthen the tailbone towards the heels.
  • Soften the thighs and lengthen them towards the heels.
  • Stretch from the hip creases to the top of the head.
  • Strengthen the sides of the waist and roll them towards the head.
  • Press out into the belt and reach the arms towards the feet.
  • Widen and lift the back ribs.
  • Widen the shoulder blades and the collarbones.
  • Lift the backs of the armpits while descending the fronts.
  • Soften and deepen the notch between the collarbones.
  • Soften and widen the throat and the back of the neck.