What Are the Benefits of Yoga Chest Openers?

Yoga chest openers certainly can help you reverse the mechanical constriction that can overcome the skeleton, but that's not all. Yoga is all about revitalizing the mind-body connection. And if your chest is caving in, your heart and mind are probably going along with it. Check out some of the many benefits of yoga chest openers and you'll surely be inspired to expand your heart and your mind.

Bow pose is one of many yogic chest openers. (Image: Solstizia/iStock/Getty Images)

Improve Your Posture and Your Attitude Will Follow

Any devoted yoga practitioner will tell you that the mind and body are reflections of each other. Let's start with posture. The physical demands (or lack thereof) of modern life have a way of drawing the chest in on itself. Long hours at the computer or behind the wheel tend to round the shoulders forward, bring on a turtle neck and generally cause the upper body to go into a defeated slump.

Specifically, the pectoralis minor muscles that underlie the bigger pec muscles scrunch up while your upper back muscles -- especially the serratus anterior -- become weak. This muscle imbalance can cause chest pain and restrict your range of motion. Throw a frozen rib cage into the mix and you have a recipe for oxygen depletion, thanks to the fact that drawing a full breath can make the intercostals that connect the ribs feel a bit touchy. All that upper body tension is the gift that keeps on giving and next thing you know the pain is travelling all the way down your spine into your lower back.

Chest openers can help reverse that process.

Emotional Rescue Too

The body stores emotions and chest openers are particular good for releasing sadness, grief, anger and frustration. The more you expand your sternum, rib cage and the rest of your upper body with chest openers, the more blood, oxygen and nerve circulation will be freed up to invigorate you mentally and physically.

Start with the Breath

Controlled breathing exercises known as Pranayama are one of the best places to start when it comes to opening your chest. When you consciously fill your lungs with air and hold the breath at each end at inhale and exhale, you begin to reintroduce suppleness into your chest cavity. Pranayama oxygenates the blood, soothes the mind and energizes the the nervous system.

Pranayama is an excellent place to start with opening the chest. (Image: fizkes/iStock/Getty Images)

Beginning Chest Openers

Yoga has many chest opening exercises, many of them involving quite advanced contortions. Needless to say, if you've been slaving away at a desk for years without performing movement to counterbalance it, you'll want to ease in gradually. Rather than risking injury with more extreme poses such as Bow, or more challenging yet, Camel, start with some relatively easy restorative poses.

An excellent beginner pose, for example, is a basic Chest Expansion, which can be done seated or standing. To perform it, grab a belt or strap and hold it behind your back, pulling your arms behind you as you lift them up, arching your chest upward. Feel your pectoral muscles opening and take deep breaths into your abdomen. Doing this several times a day for one to three minutes will prep you for more advanced chest openers.

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