Yoga instructors don’t just use the phrase “heart opening” as a cliche – poses that encourage the practitioner to expand and lift the chest tap into the energetic center of the body referred to in yoga as the heart chakra.
In yogic philosophy, this is the space connected to your ability to love yourself and others. When the physical heart space is in balance, you might find you’re more compassionate, empathic, and even joyful. There are many poses dedicated to opening the heart, including bridge, camel, and dancer’s pose, to name a few.
Beyond the more philosophical reasons to practice heart openers, there are also four very tangible benefits to these poses:
1. Promote Spine Health
Backbends are heart openers, and when executed properly these poses help develop spinal strength and mobility. A lack of movement in the middle part of your back – the thoracic spine, where backbends originate – can lead to low back and neck pain. Practicing backbends safely can help relieve pain from these overburdened areas of the spine.
2. Improve Posture
Modern society has us bent over smartphones or hunched over laptops for a good portion of each day. This can ultimately lead to shoulder tightness and poor, hunched posture. Heart openers are the physical counter to these less-than healthy activities of daily life, and when practiced regularly, can help you avoid the long-term consequences of “tech neck.”
3. Breathe Easy
Expanding the chest and heart space can improve the actual flexibility of your lungs, which means you will start to take deeper breaths. Increasing the duration and intensity of your inhales and exhales isn’t just beneficial to your yoga practice – research shows it also lowers your heart rate and can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
4. Up Your Energy
Poses that stretch the back stimulate blood flow throughout the entire body, which can awaken the nervous system – giving you a very natural energy boost that doesn’t require a nap or a cup of coffee.
An Essential Part of a Well-Rounded Yoga Practice
Heart openers that promote spine and back health, physical energy, and mental and emotional well-being are a key component of any yoga practice, from beginner to advanced. Whether you’re practicing at home or in a studio, consider incorporating a heart opener (or a few!) on a regular basis to see their full benefits.
Yoga blocks and yoga wheels are great props to enhance your backbending practice. We offer them as a bundle to make it easy for you to get started. Visit our online store for all the essentials you need for your yoga practice.