Yoga Bridge vs. Pilates Bridge

There are so many versions of Bridge pose. In yoga, it opens the thoracic spine. It can be used for spinal articulation or ab work in Pilates. Exercise videos from the 1980s used bridge frequently as a bun burner. All of these uses are correct, so it’s important to think about why you’re doing Bridge pose before you begin.

Despite their differences, some components of form are the same. As you practice Bridge, make sure to follow these universal tips on having good form.

  • Keep your weight evenly distributed on your feet throughout.
  • Engage the inner thighs so that your knees don’t fall open to the side as you lift.
  • Open through the front of the chest and keep the shoulders relaxed.

Yoga Bridge (Setu Bandasana/Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

The yoga Bridge is used to open the thoracic spine.

  1. yoga bridgeBegin on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your elbows so that your fingertips point straight to the ceiling.
  3. Rock onto your right side. Slide your left shoulder blade down your spine.
  4. Rock onto your left side. Slide your right shoulder blade down your spine.
  5. When you come back to center, your chest should already be opening. Most of your spine will be lifted off the mat already.
  6. We will be doing ujjayi breathing.
  7. Inhale.
  8. As you exhale, press into your triceps (backs of your arms) and feet to help you lift your hips.
  9. Hold here and breathe for 5-8 breaths. As you breathe, think about releasing any tightness and letting your heart open.
  10. When you’re ready to come down, exhale and lower your hips to the floor. Keep the rest of your body in the same position.
  11. yoga bridgeInhale here.
  12. Exhale and press into your triceps and feet to help you lift your hips. If you are comfortable with this lift, straighten your arms and clasp your hands behind your sacrum (tailbone). Reach your knuckles toward your heels and feel your chest open further.
  13. Hold here for 5-8 breaths.
  14. As you breathe, think about releasing any tightness and letting your heart open.
  15. When you’re ready to come down, exhale, release your hands, and lower your hips to the floor. Keep the rest of your body in the same position.
  16. It is sufficient to do 2 or 3 Bridge poses.

To increase adductor (inner thigh) connection, you can place a yoga block between your feet. As you press your feet and ankles into the block, you will feel your inner thighs engage.

Pilates Bridge

There are a couple ways to do Bridge, even in the Pilates world. I will do a detailed description of the STOTT PILATES way because it’s a little more challenging. After the instructions, I’ll discuss how to do a Pilates Bridge another way.

  1. Begin on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keeping broad collarbones, reach your arms straight by your sides with your palms down.
  3. We will be using Pilates breathing.
  4. Inhale into the sides of your ribs and lightly engage your abdominals.
  5. Exhale, go into Imprint then engage your glutes to increase the pelvic tilt. Lift your hips and peel one vertebra at a time off the floor. Your shoulder blades should stay in contact with the mat.
  6. Pilates bridgeAs you roll through your spine, keep the abdominal connection. When you finish your lift, you want to still be able to keep your pelvis tilted so that the front of your hips is closer to the front of your ribs. You do not want to lift so high that your pelvis returns to a neutral position.
  7. Inhale at the top.
  8. Exhale and reverse sequence to lower down one vertebra at a time. Finish by returning the pelvis completely to neutral.
  9. Do 3-5 reps.

To be honest, I don’t like this version of Bridge pose. I find that it makes my hip flexors grip and grind. Instead, I prefer the version of Bridge pose where, at step 6, you do lift your pelvis high enough to return the spine and pelvis to neutral. For me, it is more comfortable.

Bridge video

Here is a video where I describe the different versions of Bridge pose. They all have their benefits, so think about what you’re specifically wanting to target before you decide which version to do.

Which version of Bridge pose do you like best and why? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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