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Heart opening asanas

by Bonnie Gill

If you have been to a yoga class chances are you have practiced heart opening asanas (physical postures). You’ve also probably heard yoga teachers talk about “opening up the heart space” and “energy from the heart centre” and you may have wondered what that actually means.

We also often talk about a physical and emotional release in our practice. This often comes from heart opening asanas, and working negative emotions that have manifested into muscle tension.

In the same way we open our heart and mind to things in life (new opportunities, paths, adventures), it’s the same for our physical body. Physically, there’s a lot going on in our heart space – bones, ribs, sternum, all held together by soft tissues. Part of our aim in yoga is to keep our muscle tissue mobile, heart space included.

Feelings of anxiousness, pressure, challenge or emotional distress can translate to short, sharp breathing and in turn, muscle tightness. By practicing pranayama (controlled breathing) and heart opening asanas and exercises, we are encouraging mobility and opening in the ribcage and heart space by stretching the soft tissues in our body.

Pairing a slow, gentle practice with deeper, more conscious breathing allows for more of a release, important for many of us who sit at desks and hold tension in our heart space. Also important those experiencing stress or anxiety in day-to-day life, which is many of us.

Try supported fish pose, locust pose or puppy pose for something more accessible. For something a little more advanced, try bow pose, upward plank or wild thing.

You may start to notice how this changes your approach to these asanas when you come in to practice next. If it’s not in a yoga class, perhaps you can incorporate controlled breathing and heart opening stretches into your daily routine.

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