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A Bridge Sequence to Open the Shoulders

Prevent pain in the shoulders and back by opening up the heart with the right foundation.

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Bridges have always seemed mythical to me. As a wide-eyed dreamer growing up in New Jersey, I suppose it’s not surprising that the George Washington Bridge seemed to me, as a little girl, like the apex of all civilization. But it wasn’t just that the GW was a pathway to New York City; it was its grandeur, its geometric arc. On my first visit to San Francisco, I remember seeing the Golden Gate Bridge rising up in the foggy distance. Unlike the bridge I had grown up with, this one was surrounded by beautiful mountains and dynamic waters; its bright orange hue could be seen through the clouds.

Bridges are powerful in that they defy what separates us. Their primary function is of the highest purpose: to connect. In yoga the family of bridge postures echo the function and poetic existence of their material brethren. Just as a bridge can span upward and outward as a result of a strong foundation, so too in the yoga practice. We cannot fly unless we find our roots; we cannot connect with others unless we connect with ourselves. Yoga Bridge Pose and Upward Bow (Full Wheel) Pose are deep postures for they call upon openness in the shoulders, strength in the legs, and a willingness to be vulnerable in the heart. The physical and subtle bodies coalesce in this sequence to create a bridge between our past and our future, our strength and our flexibility, our sense of home and our adventurous spirit.

We recommend doing a few Sun Salutations before beginning this sequence to properly warm the body. Often in Bridge Pose, people neglect the action of the inner thighs and feet. Ground down through all four corners of your feet, and bring weight into the big toe mound. Internally rotate the thighs, and keep the neck long as the heart reaches towards the face. In full wheel, apply the same awareness in the legs, but focus the gaze on a point between the hands on the ground. Do not attempt Full Wheel if you have intense tightness in the shoulders. Stick to Bridge Pose, and focus on broadening across the collar bones.

 

Photos by Eli Zaturanski

 

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