Bridge is a basic back bend that opens the chest and strengthens the back, also increasing the flexibility of the spine while strengthening the neck, abdomen and thighs. This pose can help energize the body which makes it a good warm up.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip width apart with your heels directly under your knees, Knees and toes facing forward (if you have a block put it between the knees).
Place your arms on the floor along the sides of your body with your palms facing down.
Exhale as you lengthen your spine and gently press your lower back into the floor.
Inhale as you press your feet into the floor and slowly roll or life your pelvis off the floor as high as is comfortable for you.
Exhaling to come out of the pose, either releasing flat or rolling down one vertebra at a time. Your hips should touch the floor last.
Pose can be held for sequential breathing and/or be held for a number of breaths to increase strength and endurance.
Weight should always be distributed evenly between feet and shoulders, relaxing shoulders away from the ears but at the same time being careful not to over stretch the neck.
Keep the view directly to the ceiling and do not turn the head to either side while in Bridge.
For a more intense pose move the shoulder blades toward each other and then interlace the fingers and gently stretch the arms and hands toward the feet, externally rotating the arms lifting the cervical and thoracic spine from the floor.
Flow to: Additional leg stretches: straight lifts, perpendicular lifts and bend leg cross over lifts.
Physical Benefits: Can help relieve aching legs and general fatigue. Improves flexibility in the spine and shoulders. Stimulates the nervous system. Aids digestion Opens the chest, neck ad shoulders. Stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Increases lung capacity. Relieves menstrual and menopausal discomfort. Relieves high blood pressure, asthma, and sinusitis.
Mental Benefits: Energizes the mind. Relieves mild depression and anxiety. Reduces stress.
Counter Pose: Knees to Chest/Apanasana, & Boat Pose/Navasana. Bridge is used as a primary prep for Shoulder stand which should not be attempted until Bridge can be easily and well executed with the necessary strength to support the pose.
Adaptations/Variations: Positioning a prop/bolster under your lower back and rest the pelvis on the prop.
You can use your hands/palms to support your pelvis at the waist instead of placing the arms along the sides of the body but for some this can place too much stress on the wrist.
Bending the elbows, engaging and squeezing the upper arms towards the body, keeping the forearms perpendicular to the mat, palms facing each other across the chest, engaging from the shoulders to the fingers in an isometric push down counter stretch.
Contraindications: Any discomfort in your neck or shoulders (often a blanket under the back and shoulders can help but not under the head). Avoid is one has a serious knee injury, high blood pressure or heart disease.