Below, I've described the different ways of doing this Little Bridge pose. You can integrate one or two versions into the Home Practice after standing poses or after the chair twist.
Do not do these poses if you have a neck injury without the supervision of a trained yoga instructor or permission from your physician
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Bend your arms so that you form a 90 degree angle at your elbows. Connect with the four corners of your feet. Press the feet into the floor, simultaneously pressing the outer shoulder and upper arm into the floor. Lift the pelvis off the floor, lengthening the buttock flesh towards the knees. Take the tops of the shoulders more onto the floor. Now, take the shoulder blades deep into the body so that the chest lifts away from the legs. Breathe. Notice the buttocks muscles. Are they clenching? Keep them wide. Notice your throat and jaw. Release the jaw and see that the throat is wide. Hold for several breaths. Come down keeping the buttocks flesh lengthening toward the knees. Enjoy the breath. Then, repeat two or three more times.
This pose serves your sacrum up on a block, asking that it become the fulcrum of the pose. Holding the pose with the support of the block gives you an opportunity to maintain the pose for several minutes. This invites flexibility into the spine, but the holding is like a tonic for the nervous system and the heart and is quietening for the mind.
To come into this pose, begin with the Straight-Up version, though this time, place a wooden brick (or a stack of foams) at the wall. Lift your pelvis and open your chest as you would for the previous version. Slide the brick horizontally beneath the sacrum (the sacrum is the diamond shaped bone that brings the spine and pelvis together) and then release your pelvis down so it is resting on the brick. Then, straighten your legs and place the heels on the brick at the wall. Let your arms rest by your side, palms up.
If you have trouble with the brick at full height, try the next version of the pose (using the chair) or lower the block to a height that works for you.
Father Joe Periera offered us this version of setu bandha in his workshop last Fall. I find it incredibly helpful for people who struggle to get the chest open enough to slide the brick under the sacrum. Even if you can do the above version, it is sometimes helpful to experiment with this one, to notice how having the height under the feet helps open the chest and allow the tops of the shoulders to come more on the floor.
To come into this pose you start on your back with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet on the chair. Press the bottoms of the feet into the chair and lift the pelvis off the floor. Be here for a moment and focus on the lift of the chest. If it is easy for you to interlace the fingers behind the back, do that and then walk the tops of the shoulders more onto the floor, press the upper arms down and lift the shoulder blades into the chest.
If your shoulders are tight and the hands behind the back feels more restrictive than freeing, try gripping the sides of your mat instead or holding a strap. Again, working to get the tops of the shoulders more onto the floor, the shoulder blades moving into the chest.
Once the chest is open, slide the block under the sacrum and rest the sacrum on the block. Straighten your legs, resting the calves on the chair. Hold for several minutes.
To come down, place bottoms of the feet on the chair, lift the pelvis off the block, lower the buttocks. It is nice to rest the calves on the chair afterwards and completely let the back relax.
In this version of the pose all bodily systems are supported -- lymphatic, cardiovascular, nervous, musculoskeletal, digestive and respiratory. It is a great pose for women during menstruation, for convalescing, for times of stress or even after a particularly challenging practice. This pose invites quiet into the brain and most of us could use a little of that...
This pose requires two bolsters or eight foam blocks. You can fashion bolsters with firm blankets, folded in a tri-fold accordion sort of way, though I highly recommend a bolster or two because restorative poses are so beautiful and valuable.
Line your bolsters end-to-end. I place foam blocks under mine for more height, but you can just keep the bolster height until you're used to the pose (and even then, you don't need to add the foams). Sit on one end of the bolster with your knees bent. Strap your thighs together so that they can completely relax during the hold of the pose. You can still have the knees bent at this point. Then, place your hands beside the bolster, press into the hands and feet, lift the hips and lengthen the buttocks toward the knees. Recline back onto the bolster lengthening the waist onto the bolster then opening the chest over the edge of the bolster. Invite the spine that is between your shoulderblades in toward your chest. Bring the tops of the shoulders and the back of the head onto the floor.
If the floor feels too far away, fold a blanket so that it "lifts" the floor up and your shoulders and head are on it. Don't let your shoulders hover above the floor, this will create more tension.
Straighten your legs out over the second bolster. If your low back bothers you, try bending the knees or remove the strap and place the legs in either cross-legs or badha konasana (cobbler's pose).
Stay for five to ten minutes. Breathing and enjoying. Then to come out, bend the knees, lift your hips and remove the bolster out from underneath you. Let the hips come down to rest on the floor.
Do Savasana. Ahhh...