Bridge Pose (or at least what we are here calling bridge pose – the name describes different poses in different yoga traditions) is a great beginning backbend that opens the front side of the body and gets the neck and shoulders prepared for plow and shoulderstand.
Lay down on your back and bring your heels as close to the sit bones as you can. Both the feet and the knees should be about hip width distance apart. Place your hands by your waist and on an inhale, lift the torso by pressing into the inner edges of the feet. The feet should point straight forward and the thighs should stay parallel with the knees right over the heels. A good way to practice this is to squeeze a block in-between the thighs as you lift up. While the glutes should be slightly engaged, make sure that they are not hardened. Instead, try to press more into the inner feet and imagine that you are being pulled up from the outer hips.
Clasp the hands behind you and roll the shoulders underneath one at a time. Extend through the arms as you roll onto the top of the shoulders, opening the front of the chest and pressing the sternum toward the chin. If this compromises the neck in any way, you can put a blanket underneath the shoulders as you would for shoulderstand, releasing some of the tension at the neck. As you press the sternum toward the chin, the lower ribs will lift up and move away from the hip bones, lengthening the belly. Tuck the tailbone underneath so that the lower back stays open and the quadriceps lengthen.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you or see you at one of my classes!