Yoga Sandbag: Strengthen Your Bridge Pose

This entry was posted on May 1, 2024 by Charlotte Bell.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) is one of yoga’s most versatile poses. When I studied with B.K.S. Iyengar in India, variations of Bridge Pose were a go-to. For those of us who accidentally ingested parasites, Supported Bridge Pose was therapeutic. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana prepared our back, shoulders and quads for Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). On its own, Bridge Pose expands the front body while it strengthens back muscles. Practicing with a Yoga Sandbag ups the ante, providing resistance to challenge the back muscles even further.

“Bridging” is also a staple of core work in strength training. As with yoga, there are lots of variations. You can practice it with feet on the ground or on an exercise ball. Or you can practice lifting into Bridge on one leg—on or off an exercise ball. And you can add barbells or weighted bars. I’ve practiced all these variations, and I prefer the stability and versatility of a Yoga Sandbag to traditional weights.

There are a couple reasons that Yoga Sandbags work well in this capacity. First, they mold to your body, so they tend to stay put on your hip joints. You don’t have to hold them in place like you do with traditional weights. Second, you can add or subtract sand to find the perfect weight for your practice. As my back has gotten stronger, I now use a 10-pound sandbag on each thigh for a total of 20 pounds. But I’d recommend starting by using a single sandbag as pictured above.

How to Practice Bridge Pose with a Yoga Sandbag

  1. Gather your props: Yoga Mat, Yoga Sandbag and a Yoga Strap. You may or may not want to use a strap, but have one close by, just in case.
  2. Knees tend to splay out to the sides in Bridge Pose, so you might want to practice with a Yoga Strap. Placing a Yoga Strap around your thighs can help you keep your thighs parallel.
  3. Lie on your back on your mat with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  4. Place the Yoga Sandbag on your hip joints, the crease where the thighs meet your pelvis.
  5. Place your arms close in to your sides and bend your elbows so that your forearms are vertical.
  6. Press your elbows into the floor and arch your lumbar spine away from the floor.
  7. Extend your arms alongside your body.
  8. Extend your knees out, away from your pelvis, as if you’re lengthening your quads. This will initiate the lift of your spine off the floor.
  9. Now lift your hips up toward the sky, adjusting the sandbag if necessary so that it stays on your hip joints.
  10. Clasp your hands underneath you, or hold a strap between your hands so that your arms are parallel.
  11. Ground your arms and shoulders to help expand your chest, and continue to stretch the knees out away from the pelvis.
  12. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
  13. Release the pose and return to lying on your back with your knees bent. Repeat as many times as you like.
  14. Another option: Feel free to practice repetitions, lifting into Bridge Pose on the exhalation, inhaling in the pose, and exhaling as you lower down. Practice 10 to 20 repetitions, staying in the pose for just one inhalation.
About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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