Open Your Heart This Valentine’s Day Weekend
Hearts are synonymous with Valentine’s Day, so this month our blog focuses on how yoga benefits the heart chakra and the heart itself. Through certain poses, discover how to channel positive emotions and energy, how to let go, and recognise the importance of loving yourself as well as others.
The Heart Chakra
The heart chakra – Anahata – is the fourth of seven chakras (the centres of force associated with functions within the body and life in general. They can become imbalanced over time and in response to events). The heart chakra is found in the centre of your chest at heart level. Its Sanskrit name translates to ‘unstruck sound’ and is responsible for your sense of calm, caring and compassion.
When Anahata is open, it is active and energy flows. When it is blocked or mis-aligned, this imbalance makes you susceptible to harbouring negative emotions. This can intensify feelings such as loneliness, jealousy, isolation, feeling shy, anxious or finding it hard to forgive or be loved. In opening up your heart, you accept and love yourself and let go of emotions that don’t serve you.
Yoga Poses To Open Your Heart Chakra
As humans, we subconsciously want to protect our heart and avoid being hurt emotionally and physically – this is reflected in our posture and behaviour. Opening up the chest through yoga can make us feel vulnerable but increasing the prana (breath, energy or life force) to the heart chakra is highly empowering and also improves your physical fitness.
Below we walk you through five heart opening yoga poses (with modifications) that you are probably already doing in your practice at Hot Yoga Club. Remember to warm up, push yourself gently and be patient. Ease off or stop if you feel pain or strong discomfort. Stay with the modified poses if you don’t feel ready to move into the full posture.
Kneeling up on your mat, Camel opens up and stretches your chest, abdomen, quads, hip flexors and improves spinal strength. It’s quite an intense backbend which can release a lot of emotion. Press the palms into the lower back to begin with and work your way into reaching the hands to the heels whilst keeping the thighs and hips pressing forwards.
Lying on your mat on your front, Cobra uses upper body strength (shoulder, arm and back) to open up the chest and direct energy into the heart chakra. Begin in Baby Cobra keeping the hips and belly grounded and use the strength of your back muscles to lift the chest away from the ground. Move into high Cobra by beginning to straighten the arms.
Reverse Plank (Purvottanasana)
Lying on your mat on your back, reverse plank calls upon your arms, legs, back, buttocks and core to lift your chest and heart (and hips) high to the sky, drawing in energy. It’s quite an intense pose so begin with reverse table top, keeping the knees bent and the feet planted at hip distance apart. Build up to reverse plank by bringing the feet to touch and as you lift the hips up, squeeze the glutes and begin to press the soles of your feet into the mat. With both variations careful not to lock your elbows, and also think about squeezing the shoulders blades together to open the chest and heart.
Floor Bow (Dhanurasana)
Lying on your front on your mat, Bow opens up pretty much the whole of the front body, using incredible spinal strength and improving flexibility. Begin by trying half bow on each side and work into full bow if the lower back feels ok. Have a tight engagement in the glues throughout and aim to draw the knees inwards so they don’t splay out too wide. Maybe you can eventually work the big toes to touch together!
Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
More gentle than Cobra, Sphinx is a beginner’s backbend, using the forearms for support. It nicely opens up the chest, strengthens the spine and lengthens the abdominal muscles, creating a sense of calm. As you press down into the elbows and forearms to lift the chest, draw your shoulder blades down and gently draw your heart through your arms towards the top of your mat. You can then move into Seal Pose by slowly lifting the elbows away from the floor. From here maybe lift the knees and thighs off the ground into Upward Facing Dog.
Many poses that open up the heart chakra also open the throat chakra too, allowing the prana to flow to your centre of communication, creativity and emotion.
During your practice, you can make affirmations (similar to mantras) including:
> I am open to love
> I live with an open heart
> I am wanted and loved
> I live in balance, in a state of gracefulness and gratitude
> I accept and forgive myself
> I am grateful for all the challenges that help me open up to love
> I am peaceful
Get your heart pumped
Besides benefiting Anahata, yoga is great for your heart health. A common myth is that yoga is not a ‘cardio’ exercise but this is absolutely not true! Amongst its many benefits, yoga builds cardiovascular strength, lung capacity and raises the heart rate, especially during Bikram yoga in the hot room. Most yoga poses that challenge your heart rate are also very low impact. These include Balancing Stick, Standing Bow (Dancer’s Pose), Awkward Pose and flowing through vinyasas, such as Sun Salutations.
Make a promise to yourself
Join our live classes this Valentine’s Day weekend where our teachers will focus on activating and opening up the heart chakra, directing the prana to stimulate positive and peaceful emotions.
Saturday 13th Feb | Rise & Flow 09.00.10.00 >> Book here <<
Sunday 14th Feb | Rise & Flow 09.00-10.00 >>Book here <<