How to Do Supported Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Supported Bridge Pose with a Block
Ann Pizer

Targets: Restorative, spine extension, core

Equipment Needed: Yoga block, yoga mat

Level: Beginners

A supportive block under your sacrum in Bridge Pose turns this yoga backbend into a restorative pose. It allows the spine to experience extension while being gently supported. This pose may help relieve back pain, A yoga block can be turned to stand at three different heights, so you can choose the height that is the most comfortable. While you can hack a yoga block in many cases, with Supported Bridge make sure you have something really solid since your weight is going to be resting on it. This pose might be used as part of the cool down in a yoga sequence.

Benefits

The restorative nature of this pose comes from the head and neck being lower than the heart. This suppresses the sympathetic "fight-or-flight" nervous system and promotes the parasympathetic nervous system.

Back extensions also help relieve the hunch from poor posture and sitting, giving you more flexibility and mobility for daily activities. It helps open the chest for better breathing. If you have chronic low back pain, this pose may offer some relief.

This pose works the core abdominals, back, hip, and hamstring muscles. It especially brings the obliques into play, which help keep the pelvis and lower back centered. While the hamstrings are in use supporting the pose, their opposite muscles—the quads and hip flexors,—are getting a good stretch.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You will need your yoga block or a similar solid bolster handy.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your arms on the floor with your finger reaching toward your heels. You should be able to just barely touch the backs of your heels with your fingertips.
  3. Keep your feet should be parallel. Maintain that position throughout the pose.
  4. Press down into the soles of your feet to lift your hips off the floor.
  5. Slide your yoga block under your back directly under your sacrum. Let your sacrum rest securely on the block. Your arms can stay outstretched on the floor next to your body.
  6. This should be a comfortable position. You may want to stay here several minutes as your body settles into the stretch and gets the benefits of a passive backbend. If the pose causes your back to hurt, remove the block and come down.
  7. To come out, press down into your feet and lift your hips again. Slide the block out from under your sacrum and gently lower your back to the floor.

Common Mistakes

Beginners and those with back pain should be sure that the block is under the sacrum, which is between the coccyx (tailbone) and the lower back. You don't want the block centered too much on the tailbone or the lower back, but rather in that sweet spot in between.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

A standard yoga block can be set up at three different heights, depending on the side that is on the floor. When you first try this pose, it's a good idea to start with the block on the lowest height, since this is its most stable and gentle position.

If the lowest height feels comfortable and you want a deeper stretch, you can try turning it to the next level. The highest height will give you the deepest backbend but is also the least stable, so go carefully. Since this is a restorative pose, choose the level that gives you the most ease. If you feel any pain, come out.

Up for a Challenge?

If you feel very stable, try lifting one leg off the floor while keeping the block in place under your sacrum. Straighten your lifted leg up to the ceiling or try bending it and placing your ankle on the thigh of the opposite leg (the one still on the floor) for a hip opener. Keep the foot of the raised leg flexed in either position. After several breaths, return that foot to the floor and try the other side.

You may also lift both legs at the same time, which is a supported version of shoulder stand.

Safety and Precautions

If you feel any pain, release this pose. While some people use it to relieve chronic low back pain, it is best to avoid it if you have a new onset of back pain, a flare-up, or a recent back injury. Avoid it as well if you have any neck or knee problems.

As your head will receive more blood flow, avoid this pose if you have any condition that could be worsened by it, such as glaucoma, detached retina, recent dental bone grafts, or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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