The bridge pose is an excellent stretch as you warm up or cool down from your leg- and abdominal-strengthening routine. It strengthens your buttocks and hamstrings while stretching the front of your hips and thighs. The pose is also useful if your back feels a little stiff or sensitive during the day. It helps correct the natural curves in your back and improves rounded shoulders.
1 Lie on your back with a folded towel under your shoulders. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor with ankles directly below your knees at hips-width apart. Rest your arms alongside your body. On an exhale, press your lower back into the floor as you flatten your abdominal muscles.
2 On the next exhale, draw your pubic bone toward your breastbone and press your feet firmly into the floor as you lift your hips to a comfortable level. Be sure you keep your thighs parallel to each other with your shoulders pressed against the floor. Keep your weight spread evenly on your feet, and push down on your inner heels so you don't shift too much weight to the outer edges. Knees should stay hips-width apart, and shoulders and face relaxed. Return to the starting position by rolling down through your back. Repeat six times.
Karen Voight can be reached at email@example.com.
-- Karen Voight