This hatha yoga asana gives the spine a backward movement and removes the strain on the neck caused by the other various movements of Sarvangasana. A healthy and flexible spine indicates a healthy nervous system. If the nerves are healthy a man is sound in mind and body. This posture is also known as Setu Bandhasana.
Salamba Sarvangasana “Ālamba” means a prop, support and “sa” means together with or accompanied by. Salamba, therefore, means supported or propped up. Sarvanga (Sarva =all, whole, entire, complete; anga = limb or body) means the entire body or all the limbs. In this hatha yoga pose the whole body benefits from the exercise, hence the name.
Sarvangasana is the Mother of asanas. As a mother strives for harmony and happiness in the home, so this asana strives for the harmony and happiness of the human system.
What are the steps to Setu Bandhasana?
- Lie flat on your back on the mat keeping the legs stretched out, and tightened at the knees. Place the hands by the side of the legs, palms down. Take a few deep breaths.
- Exhale, bend the knees, and move the legs towards the stomach till the thighs press it. Take two breaths.
- Raise the hips from the floor with an exhalation and rest the hands on them by bending the arms at the elbows. Take two breaths.
- Exhale, raise the trunk up perpendicularly supported by the hands until the chest touches the chin.
- Only the back of the head and the neck, the shoulders, and the backs of the arms up to the elbows should rest on the floor. Place the hands in the middle of the spine. Take two breaths.
- Exhale and stretch the legs straight with the toes pointing up. Stay in this position for 5 minutes with even breathing. Holding makes it an hatha yoga practice.
- Exhale, gradually slide down, release the hands, lie flat and relax. If you cannot do the asana without support use a stool and follow the technique.
Below is a variation for an advanced hatha yoga practitioner
- Lie flat on the back of the yoga mat.
- Keep the legs stretched out, and tightened at the knees. Place the hands by the side of the legs, palms down.
- Take a few deep breaths. Exhale slowly and at the same time raise both legs together and bring them at a right angle to the body. Remain in this position and inhale, keeping the legs steady.
- Exhale, again raise the legs further up by lifting the hips and back from the floor, pressing the palms gently against the floor.
- When the whole trunk is raised off the ground, bend the elbows and place the palms on the back of the ribs, resting the shoulders well on the floor.
- Utilize the palm pressure and raise the trunk and legs up vertically, so that the breastbone presses the chin to form a firm chin lock. The contraction of the throat and pressing the chin against the breastbone to form a firm chin lock is known as Jalandhara Bandha in hatha yoga and in general yogic practices as well.
- Remember to bring the chest forward to touch the chin and not to bring the chin towards the chest. If the latter is done, the spine is not stretched completely and the full effect of this asana will not be felt.
- Only the back of the head and neck, the shoulders, and the upper portion of the arms up to the elbows should rest well on the floor. The rest of the body should be in one straight line, perpendicular to the floor. This is the final position.
- In the beginning, there is a tendency for the legs to swing out of the perpendicular. To correct this, tighten the back thigh muscles and stretch up vertically.
- The elbows should not be placed wider than the shoulders. Try and stretch the shoulders away from the neck and also bring the elbows close to each other. If the elbows are widened, the trunk cannot be pulled up properly and the pose will look imperfect. Also, see that the neck is straight with the center of the chin resting on the sternum. In the beginning, the neck moves sideways and if this is not corrected, it will cause pain and injure the neck.
- Remain in this pose for not less than 5 minutes. Gradually increase the time to 15 minutes; this will have no ill effects and then it will become the true test of what hatha yoga is all about.
- Release the hands, slide down to the floor, lie flat and relax. As the weight of the whole body is borne on the neck and shoulders and as the hands are used to support the weight this asana is called Salamba Sarvangasana. In Sarvangasana there are various movements that can be done in addition to the basic pose described above.
What is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana?
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – also called Uttana Mayurasana
Setu means a bridge and Setu Bandha means the formation or construction of a bridge. In this position, the body is arched and supported on the shoulders, soles, and heels. The arch is supported by the hands at the waist.
Ut means intense and tan means to stretch. This asana resembles a stretched peacock (Mayura), hence the name.
- Do Salamba Sarvangasana
- Rest the palms well on the back, raise the spine up, take the legs back straight or bend the knees and throw the legs back over the wrists to the floor.
- Stretch out the legs and keep them together.
- The whole body forms a bridge, the weight of which is borne by the elbows and the wrists. The only parts of the body in contact with the ground will be the back of the head and neck, the shoulders, the elbows, and the feet. Stay in the pose from half a minute to a minute with normal breathing.
- It is possible to lessen the pressure on the elbows and wrists by stretching the spine towards the neck and keeping the heels firmly on the ground finding balance in this hatha yoga asana.
TAKE YOUR HATHA YOGA PRACTICE TO NEXT LEVEL WITH THIS ASANA
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana- also called Eka Pada Uttana Mayurasana Eleven Eka means one and pada mean the foot. This is a variation of the previous hatha yoga asana, with one leg high in the air.
Urdhva Padmasana in Sarvangasana Urdhva means above, high. Padma means a lotus. In this Sarvangasana variation, the legs, instead of being kept straight up, are bent at the knees and crossed so that the right foot rests on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh as in the lotus pose.
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