Bandha= lock, or bind
Welcome to Seattle winter, brrr, are you ready?
To keep the internal fires stoked, a strong yoga practice that includes a little external heat, and back bending is a great way to stay healthy as cold sets into the joints.
Bridge pose is a simple and easily performed backbend. For intense athletes like you, back bending is key to healthy back, hips and opens up the front of the body.
Let’s Begin:To start, warm up with a few Sun Salutations or 10 minutes easy pace on the Elliptical or Treadmill machines. Gather props, such as block and blanket if wanting a more restorative pose. Lay down supine on your mat, and begin by drawing your knees up to your chest and with feet at least hip width apart, set your feet firmly down on your mat. I like to begin with “Dynamic Bridge” before settling into the pose. If you have tight hips, feet are as wide as your mat to begin. Push down on your feet; inhale, as you raise your hips and arms up off the floor. Hold for one count, connect with your core and inner thighs, Exhale, and slowly release everything to the floor. Do this 3x’s. Lift your hips the final time, and leave your arms on the floor, push into your feet again as you shimmy your shoulder blades together. As you hold the pose, soften your glutes, and connect more with your inner thighs. This will take the pressure off your low back, and allow for lengthening in the front body. Hold for 5-10 breaths, release.
If your traps and pectoral muscles (major muscle group that contains your chest and upper back) are tight, I suggest you lengthen your arms toward your feet instead of clasping your hands behind the back, otherwise to increase intensity, lift your hips as high as you can and clasp your hands. Be sure to continue lengthening your neck away from your chest so you can breath naturally.
Restorative Variations:If you have injury in neck or back, or need to relax instead of a big effort, try these restorative alternatives.
1. As you lift your hips, slide the block under your tailbone for support and fold your weight over the block.
2. Roll the blanket under your neck for support
3. Roll the blanket long like a burrito, and lay supine on the roll with your legs straight on the floor, or knees bent if you have low back pain. The roll will lift your chest and shoulders and put pressure on the back of your lungs in a very calming slight backbend variation of Bridge Pose.
Counter pose:To relax the back after any back bending, twist, or a gentle forward bend. If you have tightness in the hamstrings, roll your blanket under your knees before you forward bend.
Winter Health Tip, from Yoga wisdom:
Most of us contact with winter viral infections, and to stay on top of your health, try a Neti pot; an ancient ayurvedic method for health in winter. A Neti pot looks like a small teapot with a long snout, that you set inside one nostril as warm, slightly salty water pours through your nasal passages, back of the throat, and blows out the other side. You can buy Neti pots from local yoga boutiques, or use a method I do at home. First thing as you waken (before coffee, sorry) mix a tiny dash of salt and warm water in your hands, then slurp up your nose while closing the glottal muscles of the back of your throat. Blow out mixture forcefully. Ok, so the first few times you may feel like you are drowning, but hey, what’s good for you isn’t always fun the first few times. Remember broccoli? Yeah, now you love it!
For extra winter credit, oil up your nose with either sesame or olive oil, after the Neti process.
Let me know how it goes!!
Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club
Yoga Coach for Teams and Intense Athletes
Lionheart Yoga Training and Lionheart Muscle Flexibility Therapy