Hello and happy Saturday!
I am happy the weekend is here. This means I get to spend some quality time with my loves, I get to get some rest, and we are getting DURIAN tomorrow! Hurray!! My Love and I are also the only people left on planet earth who have yet to see the final installment of Harry Potter, so we will be gettin that done tomorrow as well. YAY!
For now, let us finish looking at some heart openers, no?
This is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or bridge posture
You will start lying on your back. Bend your knees, snuggling your heels up as close to your bottom as you can. Make sure that your feet, knees and legs are straight, parallel and in line with your hip bones. Press the backs of your shoulders into the mat, arms extended by your sides. Press firmly into all four corners of your foot (big toe, little two, inner heel, outer heel), draw the lower belly in and up. Begin to roll your tail bone up off the mat. Roll, one vertebra at a time, untill only your feet, shoulders head and neck are on the floor. You can interlace your fingers underneath of you at this point, and roll your shoulders open, coming to rest on the tops of your shoulders. Broaden across the collar bones, and move your breast bone towards your chin. Try to relax your bottom muscles and let your hamstrings do most of the work whilst you are up in bridge. You can stay, or you can work the posture, coming in and out on your inhale and exhale several times. This posture is awesome for strengthening the back muscles!
My second favorite heart opener is Ustrasana, or camel posture!
Begin standing on our knees, knees in line with hips, shins in line with knees, feet flexed and toes curled under. Place your hands on your lower back, almost on your bottom, with your fingers facing down and your pinky fingers closest to one another. Roll your shoulders open, down and back. Broaden across your collar bones. Keep your chin slightly tucked into your chest as you begin to move your pelvis forward. Only go as far as you feel no compression in the lower back. As you move your pelvis forward, start to draw your shoulders down towards your feet at the same rate. If you can lean back far enough that your hands can reach your heels, you may do so. Stay here for a couple of breaths. If all is well, you may lift your head to look up if you like. When you come out, place your hands back on your lower back, slowly drawing yourself up, your head being the last component to arrive, and then sit back on your heels for a few moments.
If you have not had enough heart opening yet, that’s good! Now it is time for Ardha Danurasana or upward facing bow posture! Hazza! (many people refer to this posture as wheel pose, but that is a misnomer. Wheel posture is similar to this posture, but your hands would be reaching back and grasping your ankles, in order to create the shape of a wheel)
You will start just like you did in bridge posture, only you will place your hands up by your ears. Bring your hands about shoulder distance apart, pressing firmly into the forefinger and thumb mounds. Your fingers will be pointing down towards your body. Draw your elbows in so that they too are shoulder distance apart.
Press into your feet and hands firmly, drawing the inner thighs energetically together (they will not actually come together, you just don’t want to let your knees splay out, because this puts extra unwanted pressure on your lower back and your knee joints) Press into your hands even harder, and lift your shoulders, upper back, and lower back off of the mat, coming to rest on the top of your head.
From here, if you feel this is enough, then good! Stay here, pressing strongly into your hands and feet, elbows drawing together, inner thighs active. Don’t let all your weight be supported by your head, that is no good. If you want to go further, from here all you will do is work to extend your legs a little more, and your arms straight, lifting your self into the full posture! ( Do not straighten your legs all the way, the knees stay bent in the classic posture)
After that you can play with some variation. You can work to straighten your legs, bringing your shoulders directly on top of your wrists, drawing your breast bone as far forward as you can without compressing your shoulders.
You can lift a leg in the air,( attempting, as the case may be) to get it perpendicular to the floor.
You can also give yourself a nice hip stretch by placing one ankle on the opposite knee, and letting the knee open up to the side.
To come down, plant your hands and feet, slowly lowering down into the top of your head. Then release your head, and the rest of your spine flat along your mat, one vertebra at a time.
When you are finished all of your heart opening, it is good to do some counter posturing(because posturing is a real verb). You can draw your knees into your chest for apanasana, you can go into childs posture. Any forward bend will work, as will shoulder stand.
Why bother? Heart openers are AWESOME for respiratory problems. Allergies, asthma, congestion, you name it heart openers will help. Heart openers stretch the muscles of the front body, which tend to be chronically over tight, as well as strengthening the back muscles, which tend to be chronically over stretched in our computer culture. Heart openers will also help you to create a lighter, more open emotional state for yourself. We are a society of closed off people, and rounding forward actually hinders true emotional awareness and feeling. Opening up physically, will actually help you open up emotionally.
So, why not give some of these a try! If you practice with care, you will not be sorry, I promise. And I am a yoga teacher, you can trust me. 🙂