Anatomy of Bridge Pose
Here’s a look at some of the muscles that are activated when you practice Bridge Pose.
The biomechanical breakdown of a cue
To illustrate what I’m talking about, my lab partner, Jana Montgomery, PhD, and I decided to look at what happens when yoga practitioners are cued to do the following in Bridge Pose:
• “Engage your glutes”
(an internal/muscular cue)
• “Relax your glutes”
(another internal/muscular cue)
• “Drive your knees forward and isometrically drag your heels back” (an external/movement cue)
We wanted to look at the differences in practitioners’ bodies when they heard each of these cues, and we chose two different internal (muscular) cues—because engaging or relaxing the glutes in Bridge Pose is fairly controversial, with some teachers instructing students to activate the glute muscles and others urging them to “let your glutes hang like a peach from a tree.” Not only did we want to see how the body responds to these internal and external cues, we also wanted a definitive, biomechanical explanation for what happens when yoga practitioners activate the glutes (or don’t) in Bridge Pose.
So, we hooked one yogi up to wireless electromyography (EMG) to measure activity in seven key muscles: the gluteus maximus (buttocks), biceps femoris (hamstrings), erector spinae (spinal muscles), latissimus dorsi (mid-back muscles), rectus femoris (quadriceps), gastrocnemius (calves), and tibialis anterior (shins).
We compared muscle activation in these areas for all three cue variations. To start, we asked our yogi to perform a maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) for each of the seven muscles—which essentially means we asked her to use each muscle to its max. We did this by having her push against a resistance while performing an action that primarily used the targeted muscle. For example, we asked her to push the ball of her foot against a strap attached to the chair she sat on to activate her calf muscle. We needed