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Season 4 - Episode 4

Strong and Supported Bridge

35 min - Practice


Alana leads us through a floor sequence to get into the shoulders and hips in preparation for Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose). We conclude the practice with a few variations of Bridge Pose and a Supported Bridge Pose to feel the sweet effects of our efforts. You will feel open and receptive.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Strap, Block (2)

About This Video

May 02, 2016
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(surf whispers) Welcome back. So, this is a short practice, to get into the shoulders, the hips, in preparation for bridge pose with support. And so, for this practice, I have a blanket to support my knees, I have two blocks, if you'd like to use them, and then a strap. There will be no vinyasas or standing in this practice. And, one of the beautiful things about yoga is that we can use our mind to work with our breath, to feel a bit better, so in this short practice, we're going to explore that, starting in your asana.

So, you might take one or two blocks, horizontally, so, this way, bring it underneath your sit-bones. Depending your body, and your hips and your knees, you might have one block, or you might stack your second block on top, to sit a little bit higher, to give your hips a bit more room, to let your spine lengthen. For me, I'm gonna sit on one block. Have your strap nearby, and take a moment, as you lift, to just draw the skin of the calves out slightly, just to create some awareness there, and then... Sitting on your block...

I'm just taking a moment here, to feel yourself, in this moment, on your block, in your seat, grounding a bit for your sit-bones. Once you feel that (exhales) settling, invite the spine to lengthen... Wide through the collar bones, and softening the shoulders down the back. Let the arms rest comfortably... And then, energetically, can you begin to get a sense of lengthening from the back of the heart to the base of the skull?

So, you're lengthening the cervical spine, softening the skin of the face... Taking a few moments here, releasing any tension or holding through the diaphragm or the belly. (exhales deeply) Allow for an inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth, again, shoulders settle, belly settles, sit-bones settle. Releasing any tension through the pelvis or the hips.

Just taking a few more moments here, to observe your breath. (breathing softy) Nice. Letting the eyes open, if they're closed, releasing the arms, and then, nice and easy, we'll inhale, draw the shoulders up around the ears, then exhale, drop the shoulders down the back. Again, as you inhale, roll the shoulders back and up, exhale, releasing any tension, one more time, rolling the shoulders up, squeeze, exhale... And release.

Then, we'll open our strap up. And bring the strap between the hands. I have mine folded. And the closer the hands are together, it's just a different quality of length through the spine. The wider the hands are, it gives the shoulders a bit more room, so, depending on your shoulders, if they're broader, you might have have a slightly wider grip through the hands.

As you're ready, inhale, lift up, and take a few moments here, as you ground down through your sit-bones on the block, lengthen up through your spine, wide through the collar bones, and then draw your shoulder blades, your scapula, down your back. Lengthen through the neck. Inhale, exhale, release the arms. Just one thing I'll point out is, when you bring your arms up toward the sky, the tendency is to roll the pelvis forward and have some compression through your lower back. So, think about, as we do that a few times together, to draw the navel towards the spine, so you have that inner support.

I mention the inner girdle of support, so that mula bandha, drawing up through the pelvic floor, and then the uddiyana bandha, navel towards the spine. So, let's do that a few more times together, grounding through the sit-bones, inhale and lift. Let the rib cage lift, let the heart begin to lift, drawing the shoulder blades down the back, tailbone reaches towards your heels. You might look up, lengthen... And then exhale, release the arms.

Again, inhale... Lift, lengthen... Ground, open, soft through the back of the neck. Drawing the ribs in a bit. And then exhale, release.

Let's do that two more times, inhale and lengthen. Ground and lift. Exhale, release. Two more times, inhale... Up, this time, as you come up, you might pause here and begin to widen the hands on the strap, letting the shoulders open a bit more.

Again, notice that there's a tendency to roll the pelvis forward and let the ribs come forward. See if you can draw the ribs back, find that integrity for the belly and the spine, nice opening through the shoulders, soft through the neck. This feels great for me. Inhale... Exhale, release.

One more time, inhale, reaching the arms up, go down to go up. Again, you might stay right here and work on lengthening, or widen the hands on the strap, bring the shoulders behind the back, strap behind the back, pause when you meet an edge, pause when you feel sensation. Breathe into it. Again, you might stay here, you might continue to release the hands down the back, release the arms. And, on the inhale, lift, naval towards the spine.

And, exhale. (exhaling) Release. Release the strap, take a moment to pause. Squeeze the shoulders up around the ears, exhale, drop the shoulders down the back. Let the palms turn up. Take a moment to observe how you feel, noticing any sensation.

(breathing softly) Clearing the breath through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. (exhales) Nice. And then, rolling up your strap, or bringing it off to the side, and then we'll make our way onto all fours, tabletop, to just stretch out the back of the legs. Bringing your block out from underneath you, or your blocks. Spreading the fingers wide apart, take a few moments here, shoulders over the wrists, and then reach one foot back as you extend, tuck the toes under, reach the heel away from you.

So, feel that line from the heel to the crown of the head. Again, drawing the belly up towards the spine, stretching the back of the leg. (exhales) Good, and then, release. Other side, tuck the toes, stretch through the heel, the calf, the back of the leg. Drawing the belly up towards the spine, neck long, crown of the head, long.

(breathing softly) Good, and then release. Press back into child's pose, you might widen the knees here, and then reach the arms out in front of you. Big toes towards each other, forehead towards the floor. Just taking a few nice breaths into the back body. (breathing softly) Wide for the lower back, wide for the sacrum.

Softening through the jaw. (breathing softly) Good, and then come back onto all fours into tabletop, spreading the fingers wide apart, moving towards plank, drawing the shoulder blades down the back. Again, navel towards the spine. Active for the legs, press down through the palms, tuck the toes, come back into plank, and pause in plank, 'bout five breaths here. As you draw the shoulder blades down the back, the legs are active and engaged, tailbone reaching towards the heels, and feel that work for the quads, feel that work through the belly, long through the forehead, long through the neck.

Maintain that effort as you relax a bit of the grip inside. Inhale, exhale, press back to downward-facing dog. Just nice and easy, we'll take one dog together. You might come high up onto the balls of your feet, and then bend the knees a bit, and walk it off. Bend one knee, as you stretch the opposite calf and and heel towards the floor, and on the other side, bending.

And, just a few moments, walking it off. Kind of awakening, stretching the hamstrings, letting the hips move, just feeling into your body, wherever you are. What ever time of the day it may be for you. Good, and then, lower onto the knees, and again, we'll press back into child's pose, depending on your body, knees together or slightly wider. Big toes touching, and take a moment here.

(exhaling) Release the forehead, hips towards your heels. A few breaths into the back body. (breathing softly) Go, when you're ready, come back into tabletop. We'll find a lunge here, and here's where the two blocks, if you have them, can be a nice support. And just nice and easy, stepping the right foot forward between your blocks or your hands.

And then, coming into your lunge, and then, draw the hips back for a moment. I love this one, just to come onto the heel, get some perspective, as you lengthen, bend the front knee, and come into that, what can feel like confrontational, sometimes, the lunge. Okay, one more time. Draw the hips back. Right, you have that space around the hip, a bit of perspective, and then, bend the front knee and sink into your lunge.

We'll take a few breaths here, just really opening and lengthening that left side, down through the thigh. You're welcome to stay right here, you might begin to let the gaze come up, if that feels good, lifting up through the front of the body. Hand might rest, or hands might rest on the front, right thigh, drawing the shoulders back, feeling that support from within, and if today's the day, you might begin to reach the arms up. Bring the right hand around the left wrist, and then stretch it up, out and over, towards the right. Breathing long through the left side.

Good, inhale to come back up to the center. Release the arms, draw the hips back, and then, bring that right foot back to meet the left. A few rounds of cat-cow, inhale, arching the spine, and exhale, curling it round. You might keep your hands on your tow blocks, if that's interesting, or hands on the floor. Inhale, arch and lengthen, exhale, curl, and get round.

A few more rounds. Drawing the heart forward, wide through the collar bones. Exhale, curl the tailbone under, round. Good, come into neutral, and then step the left foot forward between the hands, low lunge. Sinking down into the hips, and again, inhale, draw the hips back.

Exhale, sink in. Inhale, draw it back from the belly. Exhale, sink in. One more time on this side, drawing it back. Exhale, sink in.

Settling, softening, breathing. (exhales) You might stay here. You might begin to lift up... Balancing on that front thigh, softening the shoulders down the back. Again, this nice opportunity to awaken the inner muscles, the pelvic floor...

Uddiyana bandha. And, the arms might reach up towards the sky. Left hand clasps around the right wrist, and reaching it up, out and over, to the left, just nice and easy, a few breaths, long through the right side. (exhales) As you're ready, inhale, come back up, release the arms, draw the hips back, and again, come back into tabletop. Inhale, arching, exhale, curl and get round.

A few more times of cat-cow, inhale, arching the spine, wide through the collar bones, spacious through the neck. Exhale, curl and get round. One more round, arching... Exhale, curl and get round. And then, press back to child's pose.

You can bring your blocks off to the side, here. We will use them in a minute. (breathing softly) Taking a few moments to settle in child's pose. And then, sliding the palms underneath the shoulders, chin into the chest, rolling up. Sitting on the heels, taking a moment to pause.

We'll transition onto our back, finding bridge. So, after the shoulder opening and the thigh opening, we'll see how that feels in bridge pose. So, I would suggest bringing your blanket off to the side. Have your blocks and your strap handy. And, as you come onto your back, right?

First step is to bring your heels in line with the sit-bones, feet about hip distance apart. Make any sort of adjustments as you come onto your back. Take a moment to awaken the toes, releasing the arms along your sides, and then bring one block between your inner thighs. And, depending on your body and your hips, you can change the position of the blocks, so you might try it on this side, right? You bring the block between the thighs on that narrow side.

Heels in line with the sit-bones, arms along your sides... Activating, awakening the bandhas. Then, from here, draw the inner thighs towards each other, and lift. Now, let the front line of the body lengthen, let the thighs lengthen, long, through the neck, reaching the hands towards the ankles. And then, exhale, slow, and release.

We'll do this a few times, just nice and easy, rolling bridge. As you're ready, curl the tailbone under, press down through the feet and lift. Front line of the body lengthening, wide through the collar bones, thighs drawing towards each other. Exhale to release. Making any adjustments with your block at this point.

Again, inhale, curl the tail bone under and lift. Press down through the feet. Lengthen the front line... And then, release. Let's do that three more times.

Press down, curl the tail bone under and lift, thighs drawing towards each other... And, release. Again, press down, curl the tail bone under, lift, thighs drawing towards each other. Soft through the face, active through the legs. And, release.

And one more time, pressing down, curl the tailbone under, lift, pause here. And then, release. Nice. From here, remove the block, and we'll find that again without the block, bridge. So, heels in line with the sit bones.

Feel an inhale, on the exhale, curl the tail bone under, press down and lift. Now, as you draw the inner thighs towards each other, remember the feeling of the block between your inner thighs. You might stay here and reach the hands towards the heels. You might begin to roll and tuck your shoulders under your back, and your hands might interlace right around your sacrum. Relax the grip through the back body, through the butt.

Lengthen the front of the spine, spacious through the throat. Feel that integrity through the legs, all four corners of your feet pressing and rooting. Breathing. Now, to release, come high up onto the balls of your feet, pause, stretch your arms up towards the sky, pause... And then, slowly roll down.

Start with your upper back. Feel each bone release... middle back... Navel towards the spine, lower back, tailbone, releasing the arms. Take a moment here, pause, and notice how you feel, palms up.

Beautiful clearing breath, inhale through the nose. Exhale out the mouth. (exhaling) We'll take another round, this time with the support of the block under the sacrum. Having your block nearby, as you're ready, you'll press down through the feet, lift the hips, and bring one block... On the lower two thirds of your sacrum, so there's three sides, and depending on how your back is feeling, you body is feeling, you might start at that lowest setting, supporting your sacrum. And it's not so much of a back bend, the block isn't wedged in your back, but it's supporting your sacrum, so that you can really receive the support and rest here.

So, it takes some of that work out of the legs, but you receive the benefits of the inversion. Nice, if have the block on the lowest setting, you might stay here, you might press down with the hips, bring it to that second setting. And, placing it on the lower half, lower â?? of your sacrum. And you might stay here, if appropriate. You might press, lift the hips, and bring the block to the highest setting.

I like to have mine so that it's supporting my sacrum lengthwise... On the edge of the block. And then, notice what you choose to do with your arms. You might use this opportunity to roll and tuck your shoulders under, feel that nice opening, widening through the collarbones. Broad through the chest and the heart, spacious in the throat, and now remember the feeling of the block between the inner thighs, and can you feel a bit more length from the pelvis to the knees?

Still feel the four corners of your feet connected, rooted. Feel the arm bones pressing down, and the length between your shoulders and your ears. Remember this feeling of support here... As you as actively rest in this shape. Breathing.

So, you might stay right here. If it would feel good and interesting, you might play with bringing the knees toward the chest, you might start with one knee, and then both knees. And, pause here, and maintain that length through the cervical spine. And, you might choose to extend your legs up towards the sky. Now, pointing through the balls of the feet, so you're active, here.

Lengthening through the neck. I'm really receiving the support of the block. Breathing. You can stay here as long as you'd like. When you're ready, bend your knees, ground your feet on the Earth.

That's the most important part, grounding, feeling that support and stability, and then press down, lift your hips. Remove your block, without compromising your neck. Bring it off to the side. And then, come up high onto the balls of your feet, again, stretch your arms up towards the sky, pause... and then, slow, with control, release the upper back, middle back...

Your lower back... Sacrum releases towards the Earth. And, take a moment here to pause, the knees might rest together. (exhaling) Palms up, notice how you feel. (exhaling) Clearing breath through the nose.

Exhale through the mouth. (exhaling) And then, hug your knees into your chest. And for you, it might feel nice, you might stay here, you might begin to curl up. Use the belly, bring the forehead towards your knees. Curl up into a ball, counter pose.

And then, release down. Bring your blocks off to the side. Let's do this with our strap. We're gonna ground the left foot, and bring our strap around the bottom of our right foot, just to extend and stretch out the back of legs. You might keep the left foot grounded, or extend the left leg and flex the foot.

And, taking a few breaths here, into the back of your right leg. (exhaling) Flexing the foot. Releasing the shoulders down towards the floor. And, it might feel nice to let your leg move from side to side. This is one of my favorite things to do after supported bridge, to stretch out the back of the legs.

Soft through the face. Soft through the fingers. (exhaling) You might stay here, you might begin to curl up. Bring the forehead towards the knee, navel towards the spine, and then, point your left foot as you curl up, get round. And then, slowly release down.

Remove the strap, flex your right foot, and then, lower the right leg all the way down. Extend and lengthen. Ahh. Take a moment, shake it out, relax the effort. (exhaling) Clearing breath, inhale. (inhaling) Exhale through the mouth. (exhaling) And we'll find that on the other side.

Bending the knees, bring the strap around the bottom of your left foot. Extend the left leg up. And, you might keep the right foot grounded on the floor, to support your lower back today, or extend the right leg, flex the foot, and then, softening the shoulders down the back. (exhales) Reaching the bottom of the foot up into the strap, and then, breathing into where you feel the stretch. You might let the leg go side to side, just nice and easy.

(breathing softly) Mmm. And then, if and when you're ready, curl up, engage the belly, point the right foot, curl up, forehead towards the knee, navel towards the spine. And then, slowly extend, release, remove the strap. Flex the left foot, lead with your heel, and from the belly, as you stabilize you hips, your core, let it lower, and then relax the effort, shake it out. (sighing) Moving into just short shavasana, you're welcome to stay here as long as you'd like.

And, spend a few moments here, observing how you feel. And, allowing the back of the body to soften, settle, and receive the support. Mmm, and when you're ready to transition, just start with the breath, allowing the breath to deepen, lengthen. And then, it might feel nice to stretch through the fingers and the toes, lengthening, drawing the chin towards the chest, lengthening the back of the neck, and then hug the knees and roll to your side. Pause. (breathing softly) And, when you're ready, press your way up, and we'll just close with a short sit.

Coming into a comfortable... Seated position. (breathing softly) Taking a moment to ground and settle. And, from that place of grounding, let that inform a gentle lift and length through the spine, through the heart, aligning with your breath, nice and soft. (breathing softly) Joining your hands together at your heart. Namastay.

Thank you for joining me in this not-so-short practice. Have a beautiful day.


Chars Cowling
Hesitant to try this as Bridge not one of my favourites but felt very supported. Loved the leg stretch afterwards too. Will do this one again. Thank you.
Alana Mitnick
Hi Chars, It's great to hear from you! I am so glad to hear that the practice felt good and supportive. Keep me posted. Best wishes, Alana
Frederic M
Thanks Alana for this sweet and grounding practice!
1 person likes this.
This was such a beautiful practice. The supported bridge felt so open and delicious. Thank you Alana.
Alana Mitnick
Ali, I'm glad you found and enjoyed this one!  Beautiful observations. I find slowly down and really connecting with breath and sensations can allow for an expansive and exquisite openings. xoA
Rosanna S
1 person likes this.
I am truly enjoying all of your morning yoga classes, Alana, and find myself coming back everyday. I've been practicing yoga for years and am just discovering some of the sweetness with your sequencing and relaxation cues. It's also interesting to find that what seems like a simple or easy practice has profound effects on the mind, body, and soul. Thank you for everything you offer. You're truly a gift!
Alana Mitnick
Rosanna, Thank you so much for sharing. It warms my heart to hear that these practices, and this approach, resonates with you. I teach from my heart and from my experience of being in a human body... with all the usual physical, emotional, and mental tensions. I am deeply grateful to be in these teachings together. So glad you are here, Rosanna. Love, Alana  
Sandra Židan
Great practice! Thanks, Alana! Kind regards!
Alana Mitnick
HI Sandra! So happy you enjoyed this practice. Your dedicated Yoga practice is inspiring. Warmly, Alana 

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