Heart Opening

Heart opening makes room for your breath as well as for your feelings, including gratitude, generosity and, of course, love. In embodied terms, an open heart means flexibility in your shoulders, relaxation in your neck and mobility in your ribs and upper back. Flexibility in the upper body can be tricky because your upper back and rib cage are all connected and then united in the front by your sternum. However, this doesn’t mean they’re immovable. Like an accordion, your ribs and shoulders and back and neck are an interlocking system of spaces and muscles constructed to fold and unfold in response to one another. By working with your breath and positioning your body, you create profound space in your chest and rib cage that translates into ease for your whole body, breath, emotions, mind and relationships.

Things you might want to have handy: Yoga Mat, Bolster, Blankets, Blocks

It is recommended to perform the warm-up first, before starting this routine.


Step 1: Starting Position, Mountain
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Mountain Pose

Stand in the middle of the front of your mat with your attention turned inward and notice how your weight is distributed: Are you more on one leg than the other? Is your weight over your toes or heels? Notice how each adjustment affects your overall feeling of stability, and move toward your most stable position. Open your eyes and bring your hands together in front of your sternum.


Step 2: Upward Hands Pose, variation
Duration: 10 breaths

Inhaling, open your arms out to the sides and extend them up and overhead, reaching through your fingertips, but keeping the space between your ears and upper arms broad, relaxed and stable, with your shoulder blades moving down your back. (3 breaths)

First pressing into your left foot, turn your head to look to the left and, exhaling, lean to your right, only as much as you can stay evenly grounded through both feet.  (2 breaths)

Repeat on the other side. (2 breaths)

Return to center for (3 breaths), feeling the space between your ribs, and between your ribcage and pelvis (your waist).  

On an exhale, bring your hands down to your hips.


Step 3: High Lunge
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: High Lunge

Exhaling, step back with your left foot, about 3-5 feet, bending your right knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Lift through your inner left thigh. Lift your sternum up to the sky, leaving the hands on your hips or bringing your hands together in front of your heart or extending your arms up to the sky with relaxed shoulders.


Step 4: Warrior 1
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Warrior 1

From Lunge, reach your left heel back to the ground and turn the left foot 45 degrees (If your right foot is pointed to 12 o’clock, the left foot will point somewhere between 2 & 3 o’clock.) Your hips will open to the left a bit; mindfully lift the inner left thigh. Lift the ribcage, and when you’re ready, your arms.  Feel your heart lifting from the strength of your foundation. Feel your breath expanding the spaces between your ribs, and the space between your shoulders.


Step 5: Warrior 2
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Warrior 2

As you exhale, open your arms out to shoulder height without lifting your shoulders toward your ears. Relax your shoulders and allow your arms to float open as you draw your left hip back behind your right hip, and allow the torso to follow until you’re facing out to your left side. Developing focus, gaze over the first two fingers of your right hand, directly ahead. Feel the support of your belly for the freedom of your breath.


Step 6: Extended Side Angle

Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Extended Side Angle

Keeping an even distance between your ribcage and pelvis on both sides of your body, begin to lower your torso to the right until you can rest your right elbow lightly on your right knee. At the same time, trace the horizon with your left arm, circling until it is next to your left cheek as you gaze either forward or toward the ceiling. Breathe into the left side of your body.

Step 7-12
Repeat on the left side; begin by stepping back to Mountain for 5 breaths.     


Step 8: Downward Facing Dog
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

From Extended Side Angle, exhale through a High Lunge looking at the ground and placing your hands on either side of your front foot.

Inhale, stepping back and drawing your hips back and up as you engage your pelvic floor and draw your belly back and under your rib cage. Stretch backwards pressing your forearms isometrically toward one another and feeling your entire torso stretch and open.


Step 9: Knees-Chest-Chin
Duration: 1 breath
Pose Review: Knees-Chest-Chin

Inhale looking forward as you bend your knees toward the floor. Draw your elbows back at your sides as you draw your chest forward between your hands. Keep your head in a neutral position, chin pointing at the floor.


Step 10: Sphinx
Duration: 5-10 breaths
Pose Review: Sphinx

Stretch your legs and tailbone back, pressing your feet and pelvis into the floor as you bring your elbows under your shoulders and draw your shoulder blades together to support a relaxed opening across the front of your chest. Keep the space between your ears and shoulders broad and free.


Step 11: Cobra
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Cobra

If Sphinx feels like your edge, stay there for a few more breaths. If you’d like to stretch into Cobra, draw your hands back under your shoulders, keeping the broad openness in your chest. Pressing into your hands and keeping your elbows close to your sides, begin to lift your chest forward and up while keeping your shoulders in the back plane of body. Lift only as far as you can keep your pelvis pressing into the ground. Feel the expansive effects of this moderate backward bend of the upper spine.


Step 12: Goddess
Duration: 15 breaths
Pose Review: Goddess

Press back into Child’s Pose, and walk your hands back toward your knees until you are sitting upright and swing your feet out from beneath your buttocks. Place a bolster or blankets or pillow behind you and bring the soles of your feet together, supporting your knees with blocks or blankets. Supporting your torso with your arms, slowly and gently lower yourself back until you rest on the support of the bolster. Open your arms to the sides, palms up. Stay here, breathing deeply and observe the new openness in your chest, shoulders, arms and heart.

 

Perform the relaxation sequence to complete this routine.


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