Bridge is a great posture to work your hip strength and to release tension in your back muscles. Since most of us spend a significant amount of time on the computer or in seated positions, our backs are usually rounded, causing tightness in our shoulders, back and chest. Here, I will give you some tips for working into bridge along with some fun variations to strengthen your hips, core and to restore your spine.
If you have a ponytail, remove it so the back of your head can be flat on the floor. Start laying on your spine with you knees up and your arms down by your sides with your palms down. Your fingers should be able to just barely touch your heels. Keep your feet hip width apart and your knees stacked above the ankles. Consciously make sure your knees do not splay out to the sides. Press into your feet elevating your pelvis off the ground. Now, let go through your glute muscles and allow your knees to remain above the ankles. This is low bridge.
If you would like to go a little deeper, wiggle your shoulders under you and clasp your hands. This will cause you to lift more through the chest and to intensify the backbend. Again, make sure that you are not tensing in your glute muscles in order to keep your knees in line.
For a little more core challenge, you can shift your weight over to one leg and lift the opposite. Draw the lifted leg close into your chest with the knee bent and then lift the leg and straighten it into the air. Hold for a few breaths (should get hard pretty quick) and then switch sides.
For a more restorative version of the posture, grab a block or a stack of books (higher the stack, the greater the backbend will be, so be careful). Place the block close so you can grab it while in the posture. Set yourself up the same way you did before with the knees in the air, feet hip width and your hands by your sides. Lift the pelvis up and grab the block. Slowly, slide it under your sacrum (this should be comfortable, if it is not, move the block around. It should NOT be on your spine). You’ll notice immediately that you can let go of your muscles a bit more and just enjoy the backbend. Have fun with this! Maybe lift one leg at a time, or be super adventurous and lift both!
When you are done, come back down to the ground and straighten out your legs so you are laying flat for a few breaths. Once you feel ready, draw your knees into chest and hug them in. You can sway side to side to massage the spine. This is a great posture to do before or after your run. Try it out! 🙂 Namaste!!!
When I am done with a run, I like to spend some time stretching to alleviate any residual tightness. I have found that consistent stretching of the hips and hamstrings helps my body remain injury free. The sequence below takes about 5 minutes and does a good job getting into some of the most tight areas for runners.
Start in low lunge (photos below) with the right foot forward. Make sure that your front foot is all the way forward between your hands and that you can feel a stretch in the front and outer hip. Your hands can remain on blocks or stacked books so that your upper back remains straight.
On your inhale, lengthen your front leg to straight, moving into a hamstring stretch (picture below). Your hands can remain on your blocks.
On your exhale, come back to your low lunge. Repeat this for about 10 breaths. Once you are done, remain in your hamstring stretch, with your front leg straight for 3-5 breaths. Then, on an exhale, come back to your low lunge. Remain in low lunge for another 3-5 breaths.
Walk your front foot outside of your hands (so if you are on the right side, you are walking it over to the right). Roll the palm of your foot up so that you only have the outer edge and pinky toe on the ground. Allow your knee to fall out to the side. You should feel this stretch in the outer hip. Remain here for 7-8 breaths. When you are finished, go ahead and repeat this sequence on the other side.
You can use this sequence for a post-run stretch. If you foam roll, you can do that as soon as you are done with these stretches. I usually like to end with a short period laying on my back to let the benefits sink in a little and to just calm the body after my run. I hope you find this sequence useful and incorporate it into your own practice.