Hump Day Yoga: Bridge and Wheel

>> Thursday, March 25, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Hump Day Yoga! Today we're focusing on two back-bendy poses: bridge and wheel. According to Yoga Journal, today's poses not only stretch the chest, neck, and spine . . . but they also can help with conditions as diverse as depression, menopause, asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis.

Sounds like magic, right? Well, maybe not exactly. However, incorporating these two stretches into your yoga routine will definitely enhance your practice. And wheel is one of my all-time favorite poses. So, here we go!

Bridge Pose 
(Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
  1. Begin on your back with your legs bent at the knee, feet flat on the floor. Your heels should be as close to your butt (yes, I just typed butt) as possible.
  2. Exhale and press your feet into the ground. Use your thigh muscles to support you as you lift your pelvis to the ceiling, feeling the energy from your feet to thighs to shoulders.
  3. Pay careful attention to your legs -- you should keep them parallel (sometimes it's easy to want to turn them out to support you).
  4. You may wish to clasp your hands (below your pelvis). This will help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
  5. Hold the pose for 30 seconds at first. Then work your way up to 90 seconds. When you've finished, gently lower your spine toward the floor. I find it's sometimes nice to go into child's pose after.
After you've become more comfortable with bridge post (or perhaps if you're a former dancer or gymnast), you may wish to increase the difficulty a bit and try wheel. To me, wheel feels GREAT. To others, it can be down right frightening. So, always remember in yoga that you should do what feels right for you and your body. That being said, here's how to do Urdhva Dhanurasana . . .

Wheel Pose
(Urdhva Dhanurasana)
  1. Begin on your back with your legs bent at the knee, feet flat on the floor. Your heels should be as close to your butt (yes, this is exactly the same first step as in bridge) as possible.
  2. Bend your elbows and place your hands on the floor beside your head. You'll want your arms perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Here we go . . . press your feet into the floor as you exhale. Your should also move your tailbone toward the ceiling -- also use your arms for support -- and keep breathing.
  4. Again, you may find your legs want to splay out to support your -- however, try to keep them parallel, feet pointed forward. Feel the energy from your feet to tailbone to hands. Everything working together.
  5. Stay in this pose for however long you feel comfortable. This may be only a few breaths . . . to ten seconds. Longer and you may risk becoming dizzy from the inversion.
  6. Carefully and slowly lower yourself from the position and go into child's pose to relax. Repeat anywhere from 3 to 10 times.
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