yogi danique in a bow pose

8 Heart Opening Poses to Add to Your Practices

Written by guest blogger: Danique Hanson

Our modern day lives have led to heart opening back bends becoming a vital part of our Yoga practice.  We spend long hours hunching over our computers, smart phones, and steering wheels causing us to slouch forward, rounding our shoulders and craning our necks out like a turtle.

Incorporating back bends into our practice can help balance out this modern day posture, while allowing us to release the muscles in the front of our body and lengthening our spine.

Here are 8 heart opening back bends you can add to your own practice.

Cow Pose

  1. Starting on hands and knees with a neutral spine, ensure the fingers are spread wide, shoulders are stacked over wrists and knees are hip width apart.
  2. Inhale as your drop the belly down towards the floor, reaching the tailbone up towards the ceiling, arching the spine. Move the shoulders away from the ears and reach the crown of the head up towards the ceiling.
  3. Breathe and hold for 4-8 breaths
  4. To release, exhale and flatten the back or move into Child’s Pose.

Sphinx Pose

  1. Lie on your belly, with the forearms out in front, flat on the floor. Bring the elbows directly under the shoulders, legs together and all ten toenails plugged into the mat.
  2. Press energy down through the forearms as you inhale and reach the crown of the head towards the ceiling, keeping the neck in line with the spine.
  3. Lift the kneecaps up, squeeze the thighs and buttocks, and press the pubic bone down into the floor, tucking the tailbone under.
  4. Keep the elbows close to your sides and use the arms to lift you up even higher. Drop the shoulders down and back, broaden the collarbones and draw the chest forward. Draw the chin in towards the back of the neck.
  5. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths.
  6. To release: exhale and slowly lower the chest and head to the floor. Turn the head to one side; place the arms alongside your body and rest.

Cobra Pose

  1. Lie on your bell
    y, with the chin on the floor, palms flat on the floor under the shoulders and legs together.
  2. Lift the kneecaps up, squeeze the thighs, buttocks and core. Press the pubic bone down into the floor, tucking the tailbone under.
  3. With the elbows hugging in towards your ribs, press down into the palms and inhale as you lift the head and chest off of the floor, keeping the neck in line with the spine.
  4. Drop the shoulders down and back, broaden the collarbones and draw the chest forward. Keep the legs, buttocks, and core strong, and keep the pubic bone pressing down into the floor.
  5. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths
  6. To release: exhale and slowly lower the chest and head to the floor. Turn the head to one side and rest. Option to rock the hips from side to side to release the lower back.

Locust Pose

  1. Lie on your belly, with the chin on the floor, legs together and arms alongside the body, and palms facing down.
  2. Lift the kneecaps up, squeeze the thighs, buttocks and core. Press the pubic bone down into the floor, tucking the tailbone under.
  3. Keeping the core engaged, inhale as you lift the legs, head, chest, and arms off of the floor. Reach energy through the fingers, toes and crown of the head. Keep the neck in line with the spine.
  4. Drop the shoulders down and back, broaden the collarbones and draw the chest forward. Keep the legs, buttocks, and core strong, and keep the pubic bone pressing down into the floor.
  5. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths.
  6. To release: exhale and slowly lower everything back down to the floor. Turn the head to one side and rest. Option to rock the hips from side to side to release the lower back.
    locust

Camel Pose

  1. Come up onto both knees, placing them hip width apart. Place the palms of the hands on the sacrum (lower back) with the fingers pointed down.
  2. Inhale and press the knees down reaching the crown of the head up to lengthen the spine. Exhale and press the hips forward, squeezing the buttocks and thighs and supporting your weight with the arms as you begin to bend backwards.
  3. Slowly reach one hand down to the heels at a time (if you cannot reach the heels keep the hands on the sacrum)
  4. Holding the heels with each hand, actively press the hips forward, lifting the chest up towards the ceiling. Keep the head and neck strong to protect the small vertebrae in the top of the spine.
  5. Breathe and hold for 3-6 breaths.
  6. To release: slowly bring one hand at a time back to the sacrum. With both hands on the sacrum, slowly inhale up, letting the head and neck be the last to come vertical. Come into Child’s Pose to rest.
    camel

Bridge Pose

  1. Lying on your back, bend both knees so that the feet are flat on the floor and hip width apart. Take the arms down alongside the body with the palms facing down, crawl the fingertips down towards the heels so that you feel the shoulders sliding away from the ears.
  2. Press the feet into the floor, inhale and lift the hips up, rolling the spine off the mat. Energetically squeeze the knees together, as if holding an invisible tennis ball in between them.
  3. Press down into the arms and shoulders to lift the chest up, keeping space between the chin and the chest. Engage the legs and buttocks to lift the hips higher.
  4. Breathe and hold for 4-8 breaths.
  5. To release: exhale and slowly roll the spine back to the floor.

Bow Pose

  1. Lie on your belly, with the chin on the floor, legs together and arms alongside the body
  2. Bend both knees and reach the hands back to take hold of the feet or ankles.
  3. Inhale as you rise up, kicking the feet into the hands to help lift the legs, head and chest off of the floor.
  4. Keep the neck in line with the spine and relax the shoulders away from the ears. Squeeze the knees and inner thighs together, keeping them from splaying out to the sides.
  5. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths, trying not to rock excessively on the belly as you breathe.
  6. To release: exhale and slowly lower the chest, head and thighs to the floor. Release the arms and legs down. Turn the head to one side and rest. Option to rock the hips from side to side to release the lower back.
    bow

Upward Bow (Wheel) Pose

  1. Lying on your back, bend both knees so that the feet are flat on the floor and hip width apart. Press the feet into the floor, inhale and lift the hips up, rolling the spine off the mat. Energetically squeeze the knees together, as if holding an invisible tennis ball in between them. Engage the legs and buttocks.
  2. Place the palms on the mat beside your head, above the shoulders with the fingers pointed back towards the shoulders. Hands and elbows should be shoulder width apart.
  3. Inhale and press into the palms and straighten the arms to lift the shoulders and head off the floor. Keep the legs and arms as straight as possible to lift the hips and chest up. Draw the tailbone towards the backs of the knees.
  4. Breathe and hold for 2-4 breaths.
  5. To release: exhale and slowly bend the elbows to lower the head, neck and then shoulders to the floor. Bend the knees to slowly roll the spine and hips back to the floor.

 

Please always listen to your body when practising Yoga and consult a professional for advice relating to your personal circumstances. Contraindications for backbends can include back or disc injury, chronic back pain, injury related to the knees, hips, wrists & shoulder, pregnancy, high blood pressure, glaucoma, hernia and/or recent abdominal surgery.

 

@daniqueraambo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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