Re-Energize With These 8 Heart-Opening Yoga Poses
Last Updated: Sep 21, 2016
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Believe it or not, we carry a lot of tension in our chest. And hunching over a computer all day doesn't help, as it tightens muscles in the front of the body. But these heart-opening yoga poses can actually release the stress and tension you keep bound up in your chest. They are the perfect go-to moves after a long day at the office or when you have something on your mind that you can’t stop worrying about. Add them into a Vinyasa flow or do a pose on its own. You'll feel the pose’s benefits no matter what.
CAMEL POSE (USTRASANA)
Camel pose is the mother of all heart-opening poses. It opens the entire front of the body, challenges core strength and improves spinal, hip and shoulder flexibility. It’s a deep backbend, though, so flow through a few Sun Salutations beforehand. HOW TO DO IT: Kneel with your knees hip-distance apart. Press your shins and toes into the floor. Place your hands into your lower back with your fingertips pointed downward. Slowly lean backward. Bend back as far as you can without feeling discomfort. If you are flexible enough, grab your heels or ankles. Take three deep breaths here. To come back up, place your hands on your lower back and slowly roll back up. Do this pose three times.
WHEEL POSE (URDHVA DHANURASANA)
“Wheel is a great pose for anyone who sits at a desk all day," says yoga teacher Tara Milhem. "It opens the chest and helps with posture alignment.” HOW TO DO IT: Lie on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and your heels close to your sitting bones. Bend your elbows and bring your palms to either side of your ears, fingertips pointing toward the shoulders. Actively press your feet and hands into the floor and push off the ground. Take several deep breaths. Lower slowly onto the crown of your head, and then flat onto your back. Curl up into a ball and roll on your back to counteract the pose.
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COBRA POSE (BHUJANGASANA)
Cobra pose is a great, beginner-friendly backbend. When done correctly, the shape of your spine should resemble a snake coiling off the floor. When held for longer periods of time, it's a refreshing and highly effective heart opener. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your stomach with your hands pressed firmly into the ground underneath your shoulders. Hug your elbows to your sides and press the tops of the feet and thighs into the ground. Take a deep inhale and lift your chest and hips off the floor, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your gaze forward. Take several deep breaths in and when you’re ready, slowly release back down to the ground.
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TREE POSE (VRKSASANA)
Tree pose combines the art of balance with the beauty of heart opening. Since you're standing on one leg, you’ll challenge your equilibrium, and by bringing your hands to heart’s center or lifting them upward, you're releasing the tension in your chest. HOW TO DO IT: Stand up straight. Shift your weight onto your right foot, bend your left knee and place your left foot on your right inner thigh or your right calf. Bring your hands to your heart and if it feels right, lift them above your head with your palms facing each other. Take a deep breath and soak in the release. To get out of the pose, reach down and bring your foot back to the ground. Repeat on the left side.
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DANCER POSE (NATARAJASANA)
Dancer pose is one of the most effective and stress-relieving heart openers you can do. You’ll feel the tension in your chest loosening and your breath flowing into your chest with ease. It’s an intense pose, so keeping the breath steady is key. HOW TO DO IT: Root your right foot firmly into the ground and bend your left knee, catching your left foot with your left hand. Raise your right arm and kick your left foot into your hand. If you're flexible enough, grab your foot with both hands. If you're not, use a strap wrapped around your ankle. Take three deep breaths. Slowly move out of the pose by bringing your left foot back to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
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TRIANGLE POSE (UTTHITA TRIKONASANA)
Triangle relies on the strength and balance of your legs and feet while creating a wonderful opening in the chest, shoulders, hips and, of course, the heart. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your right foot facing the short end of the mat and your left foot pointing toward the long end. Your heels should line up with each other. Bring your arms into a T position at shoulder height and move your right fingertips forward. Bring your right hand down, placing it on a block, your shin or the floor. Hold your left arm straight up and either look toward your left hand or if it feels better on your neck, down toward the ground. Take a few breaths here, slowly come back to center and repeat on the other side.
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SPHINX POSE (SALAMBA BHUJANGASANA)
Sphinx is a passive backbend that's often practiced in restorative classes and as a lead-in to the restorative portion of more rigorous classes. One of the benefits of Sphinx is that you can hold it for as long as you would like without getting fatigued, which can be therapeutic. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your stomach. Bring your elbows to your ribs. Your palms should be shoulder-distance apart and flat on the ground in front of you. Peel your chest off the ground and pull your shoulder blades back and down along your spine. Either look forward or rest your neck by allowing your chin to drop to your chest. Take several deep, calming breaths here. Lower back down to the ground and look off to one side.
SUPPORTED CORPSE POSE (SAVASANA)
Even though Savasana is technically a resting pose, it’s also a heart opener. Supported Savasana gives your chest even more leverage, and allows your back, neck and shoulder blades the ultimate relaxation. Most importantly, your mind and soul can let go. HOW TO DO IT: Place a bolster, rolled-up blanket, towel or other comfortable item under your upper back, shoulder blades and head. Recline comfortably. Rotate your arms outward and face your palms up. Let yourself go. Breathe.
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OPEN YOUR HEART TO YOGA
Don’t ever let the stigma of “yoga is for bendy people” scare you away from the beauty of the practice and all it has to offer. Whether you're in the mood for the intensity of Camel pose or the serenity of Supported Savasana, yoga has something for you. You can practice in your home, at a studio, following along to an awesome podcast or even during your lunch break at work.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What are some of your favorite heart-opening yoga poses? Which ones are your favorites for stress relief? Have you ever tried any of these yoga poses? How did you feel afterward? Share your yoga thoughts, questions and stories in the comments section below!
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