Setu Bandhasana Sarvangasana
Setu Bandhasana Sarvangasana, the bridge pose, is a restorative pose that provides similar benefits to shoulderstand. In fact, it is a good neck and upper body preparation for shoulderstand, as it stretches the neck and opens the chest, stretching the (often) tight, upper chest muscles. Setu Bandhasana Sarvangasana can be substituted for shoulderstand during menstruation.
Place two bolsters vertically, one behind the other (or use four to six blankets vertically folded) on the floor. Lie the whole body and legs on the bolsters, so the bottom edge of the shoulder blades are on the upper edge of the bolster. Loop a belt firmly around the middle of the thighs, so they will not be able to roll apart. An extra belt can also be looped around the middle of the shins for extra support.
The tops of the shoulders roll down to the floor, doming and expanding the upper chest. The back of the head is on the floor. The arms can be diagonally by your sides, with the palms facing up, or they can be bent at the elbows, like a cactus. The elbows will be in line with the shoulders (SEE FIGURE 14-8). Close the eyes and relax. Remain in the pose from five to fifteen minutes. To come out of the pose, bend the knees with feet flat on the floor, and release the belt. Carefully move toward your head and bring your entire back and buttocks onto the floor, with knees bent. Then roll onto the right side and, using the hands, bring yourself up to a seated position.
FIGURE 14-8: Setu Bandhasana supported
You can also practice this pose by raising the legs up higher to ease the back, or lowering the support under the torso for back comfort, or raising the support to increase the intensity of the pose (if appropriate). Pressing the feet into a wall will increase the stretch in the legs and the groin. You can place a rolled blanket under the neck for support, to encourage and maintain the natural curve of the neck. This is beneficial for those whose cervical spine has flattened.
The benefits of Setu Bandhasana Sarvangasana include the following:
It opens the chest and expands the lungs.
It improves quality and volume of the breath.
It stretches the front of the body.
It lengthens the groins and stretches the psoas muscles.
It calms and quiets the brain.
It soothes the nervous system.
It relieves backache.
It increases blood circulation to the arteries.
It decreases insomnia and stress headaches.
It improves digestion.
It rests the legs.
It prevents varicose veins.