Anatomy of Bridge Pose

Here’s a look at some of the mus­cles that are ac­ti­vated when you prac­tice Bridge Pose.

Yoga Journal - - BIOMECHANICS -

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

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