Bongiorno! We are off to Venice to look at the Rialto Bridge as it crosses the Grand Canal. Run your eye along the top of this bridge as it slopes up to the central peak (this is your Shoulder Bridge position) and down to the other side of the river. Keep this in your mind’s eye as you execute this exercise. Let’s start!
Lying on your back, knees bent, arms active on the mat alongside your torso. Gently rock your pelvis back and forward to find your neutral position. Use your breath to engage pelvic floor and lower abdominals. From this neutral position inhale to prepare, exhale to add in your glute muscles and hamstrings and press your hips straight up until just your head, shoulders, arms and feet are in contact with the mat. You should look like one side of the Rialto Bridge.
Inhale and then exhale to extend one leg to the ceiling with the foot flexed. You want to have this leg active and the hips even. There is an oppositional force going on here. While your extended leg is trying to be as active and as long as it can be, the femur (long leg bone) needs to be anchored into the back of the hip. Shoulders are open and broad and your neck is lengthened at the back.
Inhale to prepare, exhale to press the extended leg toward the floor with a lengthened foot, inhale to return the leg with a flexed foot. Do 3-5 here before you change legs.
You can start the leg changeover by coming back to the lying position on the mat or, if you are ready for more challenge, can you lower the first leg back into a bent position and then raise the other leg? The hips must remain even and lifted.
Things to watch out for when you are not doing this exercise under supervision:
- Press through floor with your arms to stop your shoulders from sinking
- Think about keeping the imaginary string between your breastbone and pubic bone connected. This will prevent you from arching your upper back
- Keep the back of the neck long
- You certainly shouldn’t feel any pain in your back. If there is a niggle in your lower back, just practice extending the leg from the bent position first before you start sending it toward the floor. Do you need to do a bit more work on your abdominal strength? Perhaps go back to Hundreds for that and also some Leg Circles for strength and stability.
- Avoid letting the pelvis sink or lift too high (this might happen if you try to lift your leg too high). Or, if your hip flexors are tight, you might find it challenging to keep that long line. A kneeling lunge on each side might be useful before you start. In lunging, keep your torso upright, a tiny tuck under of the pelvis might also be beneficial
- For additional visual cues, imagine that your pelvis is a bowl of water. Try to keep the level of the water even, no slopping over the side of the bowl!
What you will feel
- A lovely, strong connection at your shoulders, they will feel wide and open at the front
- Your glutes will be working to maintain hip position and your abdominals will be very active to maintain that lovely, long bridge position
- You may feel a stretch at shoulders and front of the hip as the leg extends toward the floor