Heart opening practice refers to the conscious effort to stimulate the Heart Chakra, be it through physical movement (Chakra yoga), words, or actions.
You can achieve heart opening by practicing heart-opening yoga poses – asanas that expand your chest and rib cage, lengthen your spine, and improve your posture. This allows your thoracic soft tissue to gently stretch, opening your heart space. Consequently, many heart opener poses tend to be backbends.
Heart Opening Yoga Poses
- While practicing yoga it is essential to focus on your breathwork throughout the heart-opening yoga poses.
- On the inhale, breathe into your heart, allowing it to open. As you exhale, let go of past pains, traumas, tensions, and worries, releasing them into the light and redirecting that light inwards.
- Before you begin the sequence, try completing 3-5 gentle Sun Salutations to get your body moving.
- And lastly, when back-bending with the purpose of heart opening, it’s important to focus on engaging the middle and upper parts of the spine, rather than your lower back.
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjariasana)
- This fluid pose focuses your breathing and helps improve mobility and flexibility in your core, shoulders, and spine.
- Make sure your wrists are directly below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips. Inhale as you push your core to the floor and raise your head, and exhale as you tuck your head in and round your spine toward the ceiling.
- Start by practicing this pose combination for 1-3 minutes at a time. Move between your cat and cow slowly, gradually increasing the speed as you feel your spine become looser and more flexible.
Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
- Open your chest and your lungs and stimulate your abdominal organs
- This entry-level backbend asana is the perfect preparatory pose for Cobra Pose, a much deeper backbend.
- Lie on your front and place your forearms in front of you, palms facing down and arms shoulder width apart. Your elbows should be directly below your shoulders and your hands should be in line with your elbows.
- Slide your chest upwards and forwards, softening your shoulders away from your ears and relaxing your neck and jaw. Hold this pose for 1 minute.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Lie on your stomach and place your hands under your shoulders, palms down with elbows pressed into your ribs and pointing towards the ceiling.
- Gently press off the ground and lift your head, chest, and stomach off the ground.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
- From a kneeling position with hands on hips, bend backward slightly and clasp your feet with your hands. Straighten your arms and look to the ceiling.
- Gently release your neck and open your throat by allowing your head to fall back.
This pose lengthens your spine, opens your chest, stretches out your stomach, and quite literally flips your perspective upside down. Practice with a yoga wheel for a greater stretch!
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
This reclining backbend and chest-opening pose help stretch the spine, chest, and neck.
- Lie in the center of your mat, and bend your legs. Raise your hips and press your interlocked arms into the mat. Use your shoulder blades as a little shelf to support your heart from behind.
- If this pose feels too intense, try a supported bridge by placing a yoga block under your lower back.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
This chest opening pose is great for correcting your posture and improving your flexibility.
- Lie on your stomach, legs slightly apart. Bend your knees and reach back with your arms to hold your ankles. Lift your chest and legs off the floor, pulling through your arms to deepen the stretch.
- Extend upwards through the crown of your head. Feel your chest opening and radiating forward. Look straight ahead.
Triangle Pose (Trikanasana)
- Stand straight with your feet in a wide stance. With a straight waist, bend towards the right and lift your left hand above you, anchoring yourself with your right. Bend your right knee, stretch out your left leg, and look up towards your outstretched arm. Repeat on the other side.
- For a deeper stretch, try dropping your lifted arm behind your back to clasp your inner thigh. This bind will increase the opening across your chest.
- If you find yourself putting too much pressure on your leg by leaning on it, you can use a yoga block to rest your hand on instead.
Heart-opening yoga poses help expand your thoracic cavity as well as your diaphragm, which separates your lungs and heart from the organs below. The lack of this expansion can lead to lower back and neck pain from the cervical and lumbar regions overcompensating for the lack of movement in your mid back.