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  • Writer's pictureshannonkyeager

7 Ways to Practice Bridge Pose for Stiff Shoulders

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Release tension in your shoulders by finding an easeful version of bridge pose using different variations and supportive props.



Bridge pose (setu bandha sarvangasana) is a versatile yoga pose — it can be both energizing and relaxing because it simultaneously strengthens and stretches different muscle groups. I teach (and practice) this foundational backbend in almost all of my yoga classes. It improves posture by opening the shoulders, upper back and chest. It also lengthens the hip flexors and strengthens the glutes and hamstrings, which can help relieve lower back pain.


One of the things I love most about bridge pose is that there are so many variations to try depending on what your body needs or how you are feeling. I created the tutorial below so you can try different versions of the pose. Before you press play, warm up with neck stretches or sun salutations. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before exercising.



You can modify bridge pose by choosing one of the variations from the video below:


1. Lift arms with breath:

  • Lay on your back. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat hip distance apart. Reach your arms toward your heels. This is your starting position. Inhale and firmly press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips and raise your arms up and over your head. Exhale and lower your hips and arms. Repeat 5-10 times

2. Reach fingers toward heels:

  • From the starting position, walk your heels closer to your glutes. Press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips. Shrug your shoulders underneath as you reach your fingers toward your heels. Keep your gaze up toward the ceiling. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths

3. Block between thighs:

  • From the starting position, place a block in between your thighs to engage your leg muscles and maintain proper alignment of your knees. Press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths. You can use a block during all of the bridge variations if you find it helpful

4. Lift and lower each leg:

  • From the starting position, press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips. Slowly shift your weight into one leg while keeping your hips square. Lift the other leg up. Lower that leg. Then switch sides. Repeat 3-5 times

5. Grab edges of mat:

  • From the starting position, grab the outer edges of your mat. Press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips. Pull the mat apart and shrug your shoulders underneath. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths

6. Clasp hands behind back:

  • From the starting position, press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips. Shrug your shoulders underneath. Clasp your hands behind your back and open through your chest. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths

7. Block under sacrum:

  • From the starting position, press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips. Slide a block underneath your sacrum on any height to make the posture more relaxing


Here are some additional tips for bridge pose:

  • Face your toes forward with your feet parallel

  • Keep your gaze up and your neck still to avoid putting pressure on the cervical vertebrae

  • Bridge pose can be a preparatory posture for wheel (urdhva dhanurasana)

  • It’s recommended to avoid bridge pose if you are recovering from a neck, shoulder, or spinal injury or have high blood pressure


I encourage you to listen to your body and choose the modification that feels best for you — and that might change from day to day. I hope you feel more open and relaxed after exploring these postures. Comment below to let me know which version was your favorite and make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more tutorials.


With gratitude,

Shannon

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