Intentions and targeted areas:

  • Primary targeted area: the sacrum/low back (extension). 

  • Secondary targeted areas: the arms/shoulders (flexion) when arms are overhead. For many students, having the arms overhead also creates a nice stress in the lower belly. Tension may also arise through the hip flexors.

Contraindications:

  • Students with arthritic hips, hip replacements and low back issues may find the stress here too much. Either modify the pose to be lower or skip this entirely. 

  • If any tingling occurs in the hands when your arms are overhead, rest your forearms on your forehead or a block. If that doesn’t resolve the tingling, lower the arms completely. 

    This is not ideal for pregnant women, who may prefer to do Sphinx Pose with bolsters under the thighs and elbows.
  • Contraindications from YIP[1]: anterior total hip replacement, anterolisthesis, arthritis hip, gastroesophageal reflux disease, hernia (abdominal), herniated cervical disc, Lasik surgery, lumbar spinal stenosis, nosebleed. 
 

Getting Into the Pose:

  • Start lying on your back with knees bent. Lift the hips high enough to slide a block or bolster under the pelvis. Make sure the support is under the pelvis/sacrum and NOT under the low back. We want the lumbar spine to be unsupported. Do 
 NOT put a block on its thin edge, as that is potentially unstable and could tip while you’re in the pose; only put blocks on their widest sides. If more height is needed, add more blocks.

Alternatives & Options:

  • Once the pelvis is supported, walk the feet away, thus straightening the legs. Legs fully straight create the deepest stress into the low back, sacrum and hip flexors. 

  • Not quite as deep is resting your legs on another bolster. is should still create a sense of compression in the low back. 

  • After a few minutes, more flexible students may increase the height of the support, perhaps by adding more blocks. 

  • Raising the arms overhead increases the tension in the lower abdomen and hip flexors. If this creates any tingling or electrical feeling in the hands, there are 2 options to reduce this: rest the arms on a block or on your forehead. 


Coming out of the pose:

  • This is a surprisingly juicy pose, so come out slowly, gingerly. Start by bending the knees again and walking the feet toward you. Engage your core muscles and then lift your hips just an inch, just enough to allow you to slide the support away. Slowly lower your hips to the floor and pause there in awe.

Counterposes:

  • Give yourself a minute or so before moving. Since we were extending the spine, a little flexion is nice: hug your knees to your chest.

Meridians & Organs Affected:

  • Sensations along the sacrum and lower spine may stimulate the Kidney and Urinary Bladder meridians. 

  • Stress along the thighs or lower belly may stimulate the Spleen and Stomach meridians as well as the Kidney meridians. 

  • Stress along the arms and into the shoulders while they are overhead may stimulate the Heart and Lung meridians.

Recommended hold time:

  • We can marinate in the pose for a fairly long time, but 3 to 5 minutes should be plenty to start. 


Other notes:

  • This is very similar to Setubandha Sarvangasana, but instead of using our arms to hold the hips up, we use props. This makes it possible to stay in the pose passively for a long time. 

  • Bridge is great preparation for deeper backbends but also a juicy “work-in” to the low back all on its own. 

  •  In B.K.S. Iyengar’s version, a bench is used to support the lower body. He recommends holding this pose for 3 minutes initially, and then working up to 5 to 8 minutes. He claims it can help relieve backache and neck strain, prevent varicose veins, improve digestion, relieve headaches and improve blood circulation.[2] 


     

    1. — YIP is the website called “Yoga Injury Prevention”. The goal of Yoga Injury Prevention (https://yip.guru) is to help people with a variety of physical conditions maintain a full and safe yoga practice by describing a list of contraindications for various postures. These contraindications are determined through searching the scientific and medical literature. As with all such efforts, the findings will evolve over time, so the dedicated student/teacher should check in with the site from time to time to see what is new. 

    2. — These claims have not been verified.
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