Valentine’s Day is not only a day for couples to celebrate their love for one another, but it’s also a day to celebrate any form of love. Let’s take this wonderful occasion to celebrate the love for others, the love for yourself and the ability to express and receive that love openly and freely.
And what better way to celebrate love than by opening your heart and balancing your emotions in your yoga practice! In today’s yoga practice you can include some chest opening poses together with hip openers to increase a sense of intimacy and connection towards the people around you as well as yourself.
Chest opening poses are a very effective way to release tension in the chest, shoulders and abdomen and to balance your Heart Chakra. They help to open your heart and stimulate a sense of love, compassion and generosity. By practicing hip openers you release the tension in your hip joints and as a consequence release a lot of emotional tensions and blockages. Let’s make that the goal of today’s practice: releasing emotional blockages and open yourself up to positive feelings of love, acceptance and openness!
1. Cow Face – Gomukh Asana
Benefits: Cow Face is a very beneficial pose to release tension in your shoulders and to open your chest. This pose is helpful for people sitting behind a desk all day or doing a lot of activities which involve bending forward. By practicing this pose regularly you open your chest and heart and improve your overall posture. The deep yogic breaths you take in this pose increase your lung capacity and calm down the mind.
How to practice Cow Face: Come on your knees in Diamond Pose (Vajrasana), reach with your right hand out to the side and back and place your right hand in between your shoulder blades. Reach with your left hand up to the ceiling, bend your left arm and hold your hands behind your back. Keep your back straight, your neck long and take deep yogic breaths. Keep your eyes closed and focus on opening your chest and releasing tension in your shoulders. Stay in this pose for 60 seconds, release your arms and repeat the same on the other side.
Counter-indications: People with shoulder pain should be very careful when practicing this pose. Instead of holding your hands behind your back you can also hold your wrists or interlock your fingers behind your back while opening your chest and pushing your shoulders down and back.
2. Camel Pose – Ushtra Asana
Benefits: Camel Pose is a back bending pose and a very effective chest opening pose. It stretches the muscles in your chest and releases the tension in your shoulders and upper back. This pose is often done after Headstand to release any pressure you might have on your chest. Taking deep yogic breaths in this pose helps to increase lung capacity and to give maximum stretch to your chest.
How to practice Camel Pose: Come up high on your knees, looking straight in front of you. Place your hands on your lower back, fingers pointing down. Gently push your pelvis forward, open your chest, and on an inhalation drop your head back and hold the outside of your ankles. Keep pushing your pelvis forward and open your chest as much as possible while taking deep yogic breaths. Stay in this pose for 10 seconds, on an inhalation lift your head up again and rest for 30 seconds in Childpose.
Counter-indications: People with lower back pain and/or neck pain should practice a variation. From the same starting position, high on the knees, you can place your hands on your lower back, fingers pointing down. Keep your hands here throughout the exercise. Gently push the pelvis forward and open the chest while keeping the chin towards the chest, keeping the back of the neck long. In this pose take deep yogic breaths and focus on opening the chest as much as possible. Stay here for maximum 5 to 10 seconds, gently release the pose and rest in Childpose for 30 seconds.
3. Reclined Bound Angle Pose – Supta Baddha Konasana
Benefits: Reclined Bound Angle Pose is a very relaxing pose. It helps to release any mental or physical tension. When lying in this pose you can place your hands on your pelvis to send the energy from your hands to that area and release more tension. Use your breath to increase the effects of this pose by breathing in positive and healing energy and with each exhalation releasing any tension and negativity. After lying in this pose for 60 seconds you will feel completely relaxed and renewed.
How to practice Reclined Bound Angle Pose: Lying on your back, bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop down. Place your arms either by your side, slightly away from your body, palms facing up or place your hands on your pelvis. If you want to increase a gentle opening of your chest you can also place a bolster under your back in line with your spine or place a cushion in between your shoulder blades. Stay in this pose for a minimum of 60 seconds, let gravity do the work, close your eyes,… and relax!
Counter-indications: People who feel tension in their knees when they are in this pose can keep their feet a bit further away from the pelvis and/or place a cushion under their thighs for support. There should not be any tension in the knees.