Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) is a back-bending yoga pose that helps stretch the chest, spine, and thighs. This variation, with one leg lifted, adds an additional challenge for your core muscles and your ability to balance.
The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana" (EK-uh PAHD-uh SAY-too BAHN-duh shar-vahn-GAHS-uh-nuh), is quite a mouthful! It comes from seven words:
- "Eka" — meaning "one"
- "Pada" — meaning "foot" or "leg"
- “Setu” — meaning “bridge”
- “Bandha” — meaning “lock”
- “Sarva” — meaning “all”
- “Anga” — meaning “limb”
- “Asana” — meaning “pose”
Be sure to try this variation only when you are comfortable enough in Bridge Pose to hold the pose without support for at least 10 breaths. Also, remember to practice this variation with each leg to retain the full-body balance achieved in Bridge Pose.
Benefits of One-Legged Bridge Pose
One-Legged Bridge Pose has all of the benefits of Bridge Pose, including:
- Stretched and opened chest, heart, shoulders, spine, neck, thighs, and hip flexors
- Strengthened core muscles
- Revitalized legs
- Stimulated abdominal organs and thyroid glands
- Improved digestion and regulated metabolism
- Increased energy
- Relief from stress, fatigue, anxiety, and mild depression
- Relief from headaches and insomnia
- Increased lung capacity and relief from asthma
The challenge of yoga is to go beyond our limits within reason.
By setting up an asymmetrical foundation across your shoulders and one foot, this one-legged variation will challenge and improve your balance, focus, and concentration. It will also build strength in your core muscles. One-Legged Bridge Pose will challenge and invigorate your body, mind, and spirit!
Do not attempt to practice this pose if you can't do Bridge Pose with correct alignment. Do not perform this pose if you have a neck or shoulder injury. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms at your sides, palms down. Press your feet and arms firmly into the floor and lift your hips toward the ceiling.
- Roll your shoulders underneath your body and clasp your hands. Extend your arms along the floor beneath your pelvis. Keep your thighs and feet parallel. This is Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana).
- Press firmly into your left foot. Exhaling, bend your right knee and draw it in toward your chest. Inhaling, extend your right leg up toward the ceiling. Reach through the ball of your foot and bring your leg as vertical as possible.
- Lift your hips as high as your can. Lengthen your entire spine.
- Press evenly through your left foot — do not roll to the outer edge of your foot.
- Hold for up to 10 seconds. Exhale as you lower your right foot to the floor. Repeat with your left leg for the same length of time.
- To release the pose, unclasp your hands and rest them alongside your body, palms down. Slowly roll down, one vertebra at a time. Let your knees drop together and rest.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing One-Legged Bridge Pose can be a great way to build strength and prepare for deeper backbends. Try these simple changes to find a variation that works best for you:
- If your shoulders are very tight, it might be difficult to clasp your hands beneath your torso. Instead, keep your hands and arms resting alongside your body with your palms pressing into the mat.
- Stronger students can try relaxing the buttocks in the pose. Use the strength of the thigh muscles to lift the leg and the hips.
- If you need additional support, rest your hands on the back side of each hip. Do not use your hands to push your hips higher — only let your hips rest on your hands for support.
- For a greater challenge, lift the opposite arm of the leg that is raised. If your right leg is lifted, extend your left arm up toward the ceiling, while keeping your left shoulder on the floor. Reach your fingertips straight up. You can also rest your raised hand on the same-side thigh. Practice this variation on both sides.
One-Legged Bridge Pose will strengthen your core and challenge your balance! Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Since Bridge Pose is the foundation for One-Legged Bridge Pose, it's important to understand the correct alignment in Bridge Pose. Thoroughly review the information in the iSport guide, How to Do Bridge Pose in Yoga, before trying this variation!
- Practice at least one Bridge Pose before the variation, and do another after you have practiced the one-legged variation on both sides.
- Do not force your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Draw your shoulder blades together as you reach your arms beneath your body.
- Do not turn your head when you are in the pose. Doing so can cause neck injury.
- Never force the pose! Listen to your body and work within your current abilities.
- Remember to breathe smoothly and evenly throughout the pose. If your breath becomes strained or difficult, ease up and take a more suitable variation of the pose.
Raise Your Bridge
Practicing One-Legged Bridge Pose will bring strength, flexibility, and balance to your whole body. When you are ready for this variation, remember not to force it. Stay present, listen to your body, and be gentle with yourself. Finding ease in the difficulty of the pose will help you learn how to be more graceful and poised in the rest of your daily life.