Heart Opening Yoga
Continuing with a Heart Centered week, let’s roll into a few Heart Chakra Opening Yoga Poses. I have been teaching yoga for about 7 years. I trained at Yogaworks in Costa Mesa, Ca. My favorite form of yoga to teach at the moment in Yin Yoga, but I teach Iyengar style and a "slow flow" vinyasa style as well. The breath and heart are always the focus of my classes.
The center of the chest is where the Heart Chakra, or “Anahata” Chakra is located. In Sanskrit, Anahata means unhurt, unstruck and unbeaten. It is connected to the Thymus endocrine gland and associated with the color green.
Most the time what’s going on in our emotional life shows up in our physical body. But we can also manifest emotions by what we are displaying in our physical bodies.
When we look on a physical level, we can see that if we are sad or depressed, our posture gives us away every time. Our shoulders are rounded, slumped, and the chest is collapsed and the heart is totally closed off. Conversely, a person who is happy, has good posture and is holding their head high and shoulders are back and the heart is open. The Heart Chakra is also connected with heart conditions, asthma, lung & breast cancers, thoracic spine, pneumonia, upper back and shoulder problems.
On an energetic level, the Heart Chakra is connected to emotional empowerment, forgiveness, unconditional love, letting go, trust, compassion, compassion, confidence, inspiration, hope, generosity and connections or "heart strings" to those we love. An imbalance in the Heart Chakra manifests things like despair, hate, envy, fear jealousy, and anger.
Doing a Heart Opening Meditation such as the one I posted this week http://www.welikeitraw.com/rawfood/2012/02/heart-centered-meditation.html is a beautiful and powerful way to open, balance and reconnect with the heart.
There are also many yoga poses that open the heart center. Opening this area not only opens the energy center, but allows oxygen, fresh blood supply to enter the entire area and opens the muscles in the chest, rib cage and back.
Here are a few of my favorite heart opening yoga poses.
A simple seated twist warms the spine and begins to open the chest. Twists also "wring" out the organs and the intestines. Hold the twist for 1-2 minutes on each side. Breath in and out through the nose.
Supported Bridge Pose further opens the chest area, stretches the hip flexors, strengthens the legs and arms and gives a gentle backbend. Hold a minute or two. If you have low pain pain come out of the pose. As you lower, tuck your tailbone and draw your knees to your chest for a few breaths.
Camel Pose (with or without a blanket under your feet) opens the heart area, is a backbend, hip flexor and psoas stretch. If there is any pain, come out and rest in child's pose. Stay in the pose for up to 1 minute.
Reclined Hero's Pose can be practiced with or without blankets depending on your level of flexibility. If you have any low back injuries uses blankets and only practice this pose if you feel no pain. This is a deep hip flexor and psoas stretch as well. Once you are comfortable in the pose it becomes a nice way to spend 5-10 minutes.
Reclined Bound Cobblers pose aka Supta Baddha Konasana, is by far one of my favorite heart openers. This is a gentle supported backbend and hip opener. Spend as much time as you would like here.
This gentle supported twist is a nice way to end a practice. Stay in the pose for 3-5 minutes on each side.
End your practice with a gentle seated forward fold or childs pose to neutralize the back. Then lay down on the floor for a few minutes in Savasana.
Most heart openers require you to bend your spine backwards. To avoid injury to your lower back, tip your tailbone down and forward, flattening your lower back for all of these poses. Allow only your upper back to curve backwards. If you feel pain in your spine, stop what you are doing. If you have any history of back injury, consult your doctor and avoid these poses.
Hope you enjoy!
In Love and Health, Lori Clayton, LMT, CHHC