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.

The heart chakra is called “Anahata” which translates as “Unstruck,” like a bell.  Finding a high level of mobility in your shoulders and chest can release many emotions that we’ve stored up, thinking they could ring the bell of our heart so hard that it couldn’t be unrung.  Anahata represents our connection to what is universal, to infinite space, to wisdom and so can never be made less by any experience, action or transgression. By releasing the knots and tensions of things we’ve kept hidden, we uncover the original beauty and luminosity of this connection.

This is a strenuous routine, both physically and emotionally. Rest at any time in Child’s pose and focus on the natural rhythm of your breath. Always finish any sequence with final relaxation, but especially this one. Final relaxation allows your muscular, skeletal, integumentary, nervous, respirator, cardiovascular, digestive and endocrine systems to find their new set point before any challenges from every day life, so give yourself the gift of final resting pose.

Things you might want to have handy: Yoga Mat, Yoga Towel or Blanket

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


Step 1: Crocodile
Duration: 5 or more breaths
Pose Review: Crocodile Pose

Lying prone on your mat, support your head on your crossed forearms and allow your feet to point outward as you bring your attention inward to your breath.


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

Bring your hands under your shoulders, press your pelvis and the tops of your feet into the mat, and draw your sternum forward before peeling your chest up, elbows at your sides.  Move gently into this first backbend: the difference between Cobra and Up Dog is this pressing your pelvis into the ground, so savor it now.


Step 3: Locust
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Locust Pose

After returning to your prone position on the mat, reach your arms forward, palms facing in. Simultaneously lift your arms and shoulders, feet and legs up from the mat. Engage your core to draw your tailbone down and support your entire spine.


Step 4: Downward Facing Dog
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

Hands under shoulders, exhale and draw your hips back either over your heels first before you turn your toes under, or just tucking your toes and lifting up and back directly into Down Dog. Feel your core support your strong spine even as you find the mini backbend of the heart moving toward the ground in this overall forward fold.


Step 5: Camel
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Camel Pose

Bring your knees to the ground and walk your hands back as you rise up on your knees. You may want to kneel on a blanket. Knees under hips and hips pressing forward, join your hands behind your back, drawing your shoulder blades together. Lift your sternum even as you draw all your core muscles to your center and only then begin to reach your hands down as you draw your shoulders back and focus on the stretch in your upper spine. If your hands come to your heels, great, place them palms out inside your heels. If not, okay, stay with your fingers interlaced. Cultivate ease in your neck and jaw and a neutral neck, not dropping back.


Step 6: Child’s Pose
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Child’s Pose

Come out of Camel by drawing your hips back as you lift your rib cage. Reach your hands forward on the mat and lower all the back and down into Child’s pose and close your eyes. Breathe.

    
Step 7: Bow Pose
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Bow Pose

Reach your heart forward through Chest-Chin-Knees and come to prone on your mat.  Bend your knees and bring your heels up to your buttocks. Reach back first with one hand and then with the other and grasp your ankles or the outsides of your feet. If you start with just one at a time, great start!  Engage the pose by kicking your foot back and creating a lift of your spine from the bow-like tension distributed through your arms. Breathe.


Step 8: Downward Facing Dog

Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

Mindfully release your feet to the mat and lower your hands under your shoulders. Press back to Child’s pose or directly to Down Dog by lifting your hips back and up. Engage the fronts of your legs to press back and feel the length of your spine.


Step 9: Upward Facing Dog
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Upward Facing Dog

With straight arms and your shoulder blades strongly on your back supporting the broadness of your chest, roll over your toes until the tops of your feet on the ground while waving your spine forward and bringing your rib cage forward between your arms, like a swing. Maintain generous space between your ears and shoulders, a neutral neck and reach your sternum more forward than up. Drawing your tailbone down will engage your core and support your low back.

    
Step 10: Inverted Plank
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Inverted Plank

Bring your knees to the ground and roll over to sit in Staff pose. Reach your hands about 12-18 inches behind your hips, fingertips pointed forward. Bring your big toes together. Exhaling, lift your hips off the ground and press upward until you form a long, strong line from toes to nose. Maintain a neutral neck and a steady breath.


Step 11: Shoulder Stand
Duration: 5-25 breaths
Pose Review: Shoulder Stand

Lower all the way to the ground. Draw your knees in and lift your hips so you can place your hands pointed to the ceiling on your low back. Extend your legs and take 5 breaths. Slowly and mindfully begin to lift your hips over your shoulders, maintaining the natural curve in your neck and a steady breath. Reach strongly through the inner legs and big toes and lift through your core.

When you’re ready, bend at the hips again and slowly, mindfully, lower your hips slowly to the mat.


Step 12: Fish

Duration: 5-10 breaths
Pose Review: Fish Pose

Bend your knees with your feet on the ground and lift your hips to place your hands beneath your sacrum and elbows on the floor, feeling your sternum arch up. Place the top of your head on the ground gently, mindful of your sensations and always moving toward ease, stability and support.

Come out by lifting your chin and drawing it in, lowering your spine from bottom to top and releasing your hands.

 

Perform the relaxation sequence to complete this routine.


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