You've probably seen the term 'heart opener' floating around Instagram, but what exactly does it mean? In yoga, poses that requires back bends are often called heart openers, as they 'open your heart' by focusing your energy on your heart chakra (Anahata chakra in Sanskrit). These heart opening poses are commonly associated with love, forgiveness, and compassion; all of which are important for us to have a healthy mindset. When your heart chakra is opened (or unblocked), you'll naturally feel love and compassion for others, and feel at peace with yourself. Forgiving others comes naturally with such peace, and people with a balanced heart chakra will have an easy going vibe regardless of the situation they're in.
So in the spirit of this month's theme of forgiveness, here are some heart opening poses for you to try.
1. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Start out by kneeling on your mat with your knees hip width apart. Make sure your thighs are perpendicular to the ground and press your shins firmly into the ground. Place your hands on your hips with your thumbs at the base of your spine. Inhale and engage your lower belly, making sure not to sink your weight into your lower spine. On your next inhale, lift your sternum by drawing your elbows towards each other behind your back and pressing your shoulder blades towards your back ribs. Slowly move your hands onto your ankles and grab your ankles. Tilt your head back and breathe through your nose.
Tips: Imagine a string pulling your chest up towards the ceiling. Your lower back should not hurt in this pose; if it hurts, avoid sinking your weight into it by engaging your core. Remember to always breathe!
2. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Lie face down on your belly with your arms beside your torso. Bend your knees and bring your heels towards your butt. Grab your ankles with your hands and make sure your knees are hip width apart. Inhale and push your feet away from your butt, making sure your hands are gripping firmly onto your ankles. Lift your thighs off the floor and arch your back. Your head and torso should be lifted off the floor. Press your shoulder blades towards your back ribs to open your chest.
Tips: Focus on lifting your heels and thighs off the floor and you'll naturally lift your back. Remember to keep breathing through your nose.
3. Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor. Try to get your heels as close to your butt as possible. Bend your elbows and place your hands beside your head, making sure your fingers are pointing in the direction of your feet. As you inhale, press your feet and hands into the ground, then lift your butt off the mat. Firmly press into your hands and push your shoulder blades towards your back.
Tips: Spread your fingers for better grip. Always make sure your arms are straight and not bent in wheel pose. Try to push your chest in the direction of your head by actively pressing your feet into the ground. Remember to keep your feet hip width apart.
Images from @yogateak