Heart openers are big poses, and not just for our bodies. They’re telling of our physical state, our spiritual space, and our emotional health. They’re directly connected to our hips, shoulders and the systems of the body that control hormones, blood pressure and all the little muscles, tendons and joints.
So if you’re looking to counter all that grocery carrying, computer typing, and sometimes less-than-kind attitude we can have with ourselves, here are nine heart openers to do just that.
Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana) – From all fours, walk your hands forward, curl your toes under and keep your elbows off the ground. Drop your forehead or chin to the floor, breathing your heart closer to your thighs. Breathe into your back.
Sphinx (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) – Lie flat on your belly, draw the legs together, draw your tailbone toward your heels. Set your forearms parallel on the ground. Draw your belly in and pull your upper torso and heart toward the front of the room.
Cow (Bitilasana) – Start on your hands and knees, hands directly below shoulders and knees directly below hips. Find a neutral spine. Inhale, lift your sit bones and chest toward the ceiling. Allow the belly to curve, gaze forward.
Up Dog (Urdva Mukha Svanasana) – From a low plank, flip the tops of your feet to press into the ground, lift your heart forward and up, straightening your arms and torso toward the sky. Keep the thighs firm, extend the tailbone long, and lift through the heart, broadening your collarbones.
Floor Bow (Dhanurasana) – Lie on your belly, hands to your side, palms up. Bend your knees and reach behind to grab your feet from the outside. Keep your knees hip width. On the inhale, lift and kick your feet away, pulling your collarbones broad and heart open. Lift out of your lower back, taking care to not crunch or compress the muscles and bones. Think about length, not bending.
Wild Thing (Camatkarasana) – From downward facing dog, lift your right leg high, bend at the knee and stack your hips. Keep your shoulders square and look under the left armpit. Allow your right foot to get heavy, dropping to the ground as you lift the right hand off the earth. Reach the hand up or toward the front of the room, plugging your shoulder back in. On the inhale, expand your chest and straight your left leg. Repeat for the other side.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana) – Kneel with your knees hip distance, bring your hands to your lower back, take your gaze forward. Keep your butt soft, press your hips forward and begin to trace your gaze along the ceiling. Think about pulling your spine long, not bending your back. Hold for at least six breaths.
Crescent Lunge with a Backbend (Anjaneyasana) – From high crescent lunge, lift your arms overhead and hook your thumbs. Keep your hips drawing forward, square to the front of the room. As you try to pull your thumbs apart, begin to press your heart forward, pulling your heart and spine long. To come out of the pose, trace your gaze back along the ceiling, release your hands. Be sure to do the other side.
Full Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) – Lie supine on the floor, knees bent and soles of the feet flat, hip distances. Bend your elbows and place your hands to the ground, fingers facing forward. Exhale everything out; on the inhale, press into your hands and feet to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Press the shoulder blades against your back to open your heart. Soften the fact. Hold for at least three breaths.