back in my Anusara yoga days, I learned how to apply muscle energy,
but balance that with organic energy. bridge pose, or in sanskrit,
setu bandha sarvangasana, is an amazing combination of both.
the muscle energy is on the back side of your body... think glutes, back muscles, rhomboids between the shoulder blades, and others.
the organic energy is on the front side of your body... think pecs, abs, and quads.
my not-so-gifted drawing above gives you my favorite version of supporting actions of this pose...
*root through feet that are parallel and directly under the knees
*root through upper arms that are held close to the torso, elbows bent
*point knees directly forward so that your back is well aligned
*keep chin slightly lifted to keep your cervical spine happy and curvy
of course, there is always more, like....
*align the feet and knees using a block
*engage the inner thighs by squeezing a block between them
*engage the outer legs by tying a strap above the knees
and then, even more, like....
once you feel stable and strong in the pose, extend the arms on the floor,
pull one leg to the sky while still rooting down through the other foot and upper arms.
not only will you enjoy a reclined backbend, but you are strengthening all the muscles that keep your standing posture aligned and well!