Hey friends, happy almost the weekend!
Wanna hear something cool? This is post number 50! Cool beans! Thank you to everyone who has read and is reading, it means allot to me! And double thank you for all the comments, I love all your thoughts, feelings and questions, so keep em commin.
Today, I want to do a yoga post focusing on heart openers. Most people will refer to them as back bends, but I like to say heart openers, because I feel that name demonstrates what your focus should be in the postures. These postures aren’t so much about creating as much bend in your back as you can, as they are about creating space in your upper chest area. Less focus on compression of the back, more focus on the opening of your front body.
So many of us live a life where we are rounded forward in our upper bodies. We sit at a desk, typing on a computer all day. We slump sitting in the car or the bus. We carry a bag or backpack that rounds our shoulders forward. Heart openers can feel really out of the ordinary, and dare I say, uncomfortable at first, because it is the exact opposite of how we are used to holding ourselves! It is always a good thing to depart from our comfort zones though, no?
The first back bend we are going to look at is Bhujangasana or cobra posture.
In this posture, you want to focus on the following points; keep your legs and feet pressing together, baby toes and big toes pressing equally into your mat. Roll your inner thighs up towards the ceiling. Draw your lower belly and your belly button towards your spine, activating your abdominal muscles, to avoid compressing the spine. Place your hands directly under your shoulders, elbows pointing up and back. Point the top of your head to the front of the room as much as you can, and let this forward motion be the thing that lifts your upper body off of the mat. Use as much back strength as you can, avoiding the urge to use your arms to lift you. Spread your collar bones wide, as you send your breast bone forward. Keep your shoulders rolling down and back, shoulder blades drawing towards the spine and down towards the tail bone. You should be able to lift your hands off of the mat, and maintain the same height in the upper body. Looks kinda easy, but is a lot of work!
Next, let us look at Urdvha Mukha Svanasana, or upward facing dog!
For this posture, in all its classical glory, only the hands and the feet are in contact with the mat. You are pressing the big toes and the baby toes equally into your mat, as you press down into the tops of your feet. Your legs need to be perfectly parallel (no turning out, or turning in, as this can really injure your lower back.) Draw your inner thighs in, and up towards the ceiling. Lower abs and belly button are strongly engaged, and you are sending your tail bone straight down between your heels. Draw your shoulder blades towards one another, and down your spine, as you broaden across your collar bones, making sure that your shoulders are rolling down and back, not up towards our ears. Your hands are placed directly under your shoulders, pressing strongly into the forefinger and thumb mounds of your palms. Spread your fingers as wide as you can. Focus on drawing your breast bone forward as much as you can, as you lift the crown of your head up as high as you can. If you feel safe in the neck, you can look up slightly. Yay for dogs looking up!
My next favorite way to open my heart is through Dhanurasana or bow posture;
In this posture, you will begin by lying on your belly. Draw our heels into your buttocks, and reach your arms back to grab hold of your inner or outer ankles, drawing your legs together. Lift your lower belly in and up, and begin pulling on your legs with your arms, as you lift your heels up and away from your bottom, drawing you upper body off of your mat. Actively move your shoulder blades toward our spine and downward. Broaden across your collar bones. Continue to pull on your legs with your arms, and resist your legs away from your arms, in order to lift yourself higher and higher. You can rock back and forth for a nice massage of the internal organs. This is a really nice deep opener for the chest.
We will continue with our bending of the back tomorrow, with two more postures, and lots of variations!