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Open Heart Open Life: 5 Heart Opening Poses

This is the month of love and I'm kicking it off with backbends for the lovers. I'm going to share some basic backbends that you'll typically find in a vinyasa class. Be sure to warm up your body and get into your breath before you bounce and bend into these. 

 

Cobra pose:

Start by laying on your belly with your arms down by your sides.

Lower body focus: 

Press the tops of your feet down onto the mat. Engage your legs and keep pressing the toes down as the kneecaps lifts. Root the pelvic bone forward and down to engage the lower glutes.

Take a deep inhale through the nose and press the palms into the mat. As your breath boasts your lungs, allow your heart to press forward and then up towards the sky. Slowly, lift your chin lengthening your neck all the way down your spine.

Upper body focus: 

Bring your palms underneath your armpits and slowly draw them back so they land beneath your elbows as close as you can. Keep the inner elbows points close to your sides. Lift and rotate your shoulder-heads back in preparation to send the heart forward.

I like to take this posture in rhythm with breath, inhaling the chest forward and up and exhaling the chest and forehead back down to the earth. Open the chest wall and collar bones for 2-4 rounds and then press back into child's pose.

Upward-facing dog:

Start in a high-plank position. Take a breath in and press forward onto your tip-toes, Exhale, lowering half-way into your chaturanga (also known as low plank) hugging your elbow point into your side-body.  Your next inhale will take you into upward-facing dog in a slow, fluid transition.

Lower body: 

Flip the tops of the feet over, press your toes into the earth, engage the quadriceps, and keep the thighs up off from the ground. The lower gluteus stay active untoward the pelvis, as you lift.

Upper body: 

Palms pressed and firm into the mat, straighten your arms allow the collar bones to widen and smile. Your heart expands between your arms as you maintain a lifting forward-and-up action in this backbend. Abdominals are active in support of a long spine and a proud heart.

Take a few breaths here and then drop to your knees into child's pose or press your hips up and back into downward-facing dog.

Bridge:

Start on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the earth about hip-width distant apart from each other. Take your palms face-down at your sides or grab the sides of your yoga mat for extra support. On your next breath-in, prepare the body to lift.

Lower body: 

With your feet firm and planted, engage the quads and the inner thighs as you lift your hips up high toward the sky. Activate the lower gluteus in toward the pelvis to support the hips and lower back. 

Upper body: 

Once you've lifted the hips, shimmy your shoulders beneath you with the weight on the heads. You can keep a a firm grip on the outsides of your yoga mat or begin to walk the palms beneath you reaching to clasp the fingers. As the heart is lifted, with support of the lower body, send it towards the back of your mat (or forehead). As you breathe, gently press the back of your head into the mat to lengthen your neck, slightly lifting the chin so you have access to your breath, opening the throat.

Stay lifted for 5-10 breaths and then lower down, sway the knees side-to-side to recruit some movement in the hips and lower back. Take a 2-5 rounds of bridge pose allowing the body to build some heat and welcome a vigorous practice with breath. 

 

Wheel:

Start on your back as you would for bridge pose with your knees bent and feet planted into the earth. Bend the elbows and plant your palms down on each side of your head with your forearms perpendicular to the floor. On an exhalation, slowly begin to press the palms into the earth and come up onto to the top of your head, supporting from the legs and arms. Draw the shoulder heads down your back. Stay here for 2-3 breaths. Exhale all of the air and begin to push yourself up, extend your arms long, pushing the head up off the floor. Send that beautiful lifted heart of yours behind you, through your arms, while your head hangs. Breathe here for 5-10 breaths. Slowly lower back down onto the crown or tuck your chin in towards your chest, lowering onto your back. Take a landing position with the souls of your feet connected, knees wide for supta baddha konasana or happy baby.

 

Back-bending is a beautiful energy booster. It's the great balance of finding strength and flexibility. Life often imitates the practice and the practice often imitates life. The more your open the heart, the more open your life becomes. 




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