The heart is an important part of yoga practice – so important that there’s even a word for heart chakra: anahata.
Outside of yoga, the heart plays a series of important roles. First, the heart is responsible for moving blood throughout the body. Since yoga is an excellent way to detox, keeping the blood moving is important for cleansing. It’s also important to get blood to circulate around the entire body in order to get the most out of a workout.
Second, the heart is essentially the body’s metronome; the pace of your breathing and movements follows your heartbeat. Keeping your heart moving at a specific pace is a good way to gain better control of your body during yoga.
There are plenty of other reasons to open your heart in yoga that yogis follow, especially if you believe that the heart is the source of love in the body.
To open up the heart and allow your body to warm up and breathe, you should do some of the following poses:
Cat-cows are one of the ultimate yoga pose combos. This combination of cat pose and cow pose will let you warm up every part of your body, so regardless of what you’re trying to get out of your practice, cat-cows will always help.
Since this helps the entire body warm up, you may as well use cat-cows to warm up for heart opening poses. By stretching the spine to open and close the chest, you’ll be allowing your heart to move around a bit.
Low and High Lunge
Both low lunge and high lunge are great for opening the heart.
No matter which of the two you pick (if not both), be sure to add a backward stretch with your arms extended straight overhead from the bottom of the pose. This will help bring the blood through the legs and back through the chest, warming up your torso and your legs.
A bit of a stranger one for people who don’t practice yoga often, camel pose can be a challenge to balance in at first.
The key to this pose is to listen to your body before stretching too far. Start on your knees, spread them out to hip distance (or a little farther if that’s more comfortable) and place your hands on the tops of your feet. From here, drive the upper body up by extending the hips and belly forward.
Camel pose is also an excellent stretch for your upper spine, so this pose is particularly useful for those that sit at desks all day.
Upward Facing Dog/Cobra Pose
For another pose for opening the chest and heart, try upward facing dog or cobra pose depending on what you prefer during your chatarungas.
Both of these poses are intended to counteract a pose like downward facing dog where the upper body is upside down and the blood move toward the head. Upward facing dog and cobra pose bring the blood back down and throughout the torso.
Be sure to keep your shoulders from crunching up during both of these poses. By keeping them at your regular shoulder level your chest will have more room to open up.
A bit of a more advanced pose, the wild thing pose is essentially and opened up, upside-down downward facing dog.
To do this pose, start in downward facing dog and lift one arm up. Take the leg on the same side and lift it while rotating your hips so your chest starts to face the sky. Let the leg in the air fall naturally, and make sure to keep your body from sagging down.
How good is this pose for your heart? One translation of camatkarasana (the Sanskrit name for wild thing) is “the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart.”
The nice thing about many heart opening poses is that they don’t require too much yoga talent – just some comfortable yoga clothes that help your body breathe!
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