Most people tend to hold a lot of stress in their shoulders. I have a tendency to round my shoulders, a habit left over from puberty when I was awkwardly trying to get used to what my body was developing into. Add that to hunching over a computer for hours a day (thanks, blogging!) and my shoulders really need some TLC. Yoga poses that open the heart have been some of my favorite poses lately because they help open my shoulders and help me feel more confident about my posture. And, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted so share my top five favorite heart opening yoga poses.
Disclaimer: I am a yoga teacher, but I’m not your yoga teacher. Always practice yoga mindfully and if you have any questions, consult with your teacher.
A quick note: In yoga, heart openers are poses that help pull the shoulders back so the breastbone can shine forward, pulling the ribcage a little forward with it. Because of this emphasis on opening the shoulders, people with shoulder injuries should either practice these poses carefully or not at all.
Humble Warrior is one of my favorite yoga poses because the shoulder rinse really allows me to open up my shoulders. Humble Warrior begins with the feet in Warrior I position. Clasping the hands behind the low back, you lengthen your spine on your inhale and fold forward on the exhale, attempting to bring both shoulders inside of the front knee. The head should be hanging freely to release any tension from the neck. People with tight shoulders can grip a hand towel between the hands until their shoulders are loose enough to clasp the hands into a shoulder rinse.
Cobra Pose is a lovely heart opening yoga pose. Lying on your stomach with shoulders back, you use your core to pull your torso up on an inhale. One option is to slightly lift the shoulders and heart above the floor, keeping little to no weight in the hands. A second option is to press up further through the arms, lifting the chest higher.
Fish Pose is well-known as a heart opening yoga pose. At my studio we’ll often take Fish Pose as a final heart opener before savasana. Lying on your back, you place your hands underneath your glutes. Keeping your upper arms touching your rib cage, press up onto your elbows. Gently let your head fall back until the crown of the head gently rests on the floor.
Bow is a wonderful pose to really help open the heart and shine the heart forward. One option is to come into half bow: the left hand grabs hold of the left ankle, the left foot kicks into the hand, and the body lifts, repeating on the right side. Or, for more advanced yogis, full bow offers an even greater heart opening.
Bridge pose is a wonderful heart opener and is a pose that most yogis are able to perform, even beginners. Yogis with more flexible shoulders can tuck the shoulders under the body, which allows an even greater opening of the heart.
Yoga fans: what’s your favorite heart opener?
What muscle group do you struggle with opening?