Setu Bandhasana can seem a little scary at first. The name of the pose means bridge and it prepares you for getting into deeper back bending poses. Think of it as a stable bridge
It’s important that you warm up before attempting Setu Bandhasna. That’s why it is situated toward the end of the Ashtanga Primary Series.
Don’t be afraid of what’s happening in the neck in this pose. You get the deep bend in the cervical spine by activating your neck muscles, but if you have herniated discs in your neck or problems with your neck you’ll want to skip this posture.
To prepare for this pose lay on your back. Bring the heels together and spread the toes apart so they’re pointing opposite sides. Your heels are touching. Your heels should be quite far away from the pelvis. Further away is better than closer. Now let your knees flop out to the side. Then activate your inner thighs a little to raise your knees up.
Put your hands onto the ground so your hands are at your hips and push your elbows into the ground. Put your head back so the crown of your head is on the floor.
Your upper back is lifted up off of the floor.
Your hands are on your thighs. You’re not dumping weight into your head. You’re pressing into your elbows activating and your thighs.
This is the pose you can use to prepare. This is not the full expression of the pose yet, but If this is a lot for you just stay here for five breaths. Wait until you’ve built more strength before you try to get into the full posture.
To get into the full expression of the pose, start by laying on your mat with your heels together and your feet pressing out pointing out. The crown of your head is on the ground.
Now you can get up in one of two ways. Bring your hands up over your head and use them like training wheels to help you lift your body off the ground. If you lift up in this way be careful not to push too much with the shoulders because then you’ll have problems transitioning into the more complete expression of the pose.
Another way to get into the pose is to start from where we were before with your head pressed into the ground and your hips still on the ground. Reach both hands out to the sides. Now activate the back muscles and your leg muscles. Inhale and lift up so the crown of your head is on the ground.
For the traditional entry into Setu Bandhasana, you lay on your mat with your heels touching and toes point away from each other. Your hands are crossed over your shoulders. Then you activate the back muscles and the leg muscles and lift your hips so you can roll up onto the top of your head lifting your body.
Watch the following video where Kino gives you a more detailed description of how to get into Setu Bandhasana.