Fitness · Well-being

Happy Heart-Openers

Hi friends, Happy Monday!  While my fellow Mimosa Moms were brunching in warm Virginia Beach this past Sunday, I was relaxing with my family in Lynchburg. Though I wasn’t with my girls physically, I was with them in spirit. Please be sure to check out their fun brunch tour pics on Facebook and stay tuned for their upcoming reviews after they recover from this weekend!

Back to this post…I was in Lynchburg this past weekend visiting my wonderful in-laws for my brother-in-law’s birthday. The kids love it there as they get playtime with their cousins. Hubby loves seeing his parents and hanging out with his siblings. Me? I get delicious home-cooked meals, quality time with the fam, yoga in the mountain air, and a little free time to myself to start this blog 😄. I also really enjoyed sipping my coffee on the porch with the warm sun shining through the trees and watching the kids play from afar. They were close enough for me to intervene if necessary, but still far enough that I get some quiet time. Quiet time is unheard of these days so I take advantage of it whenever I can.

lynchburg

With Valentine’s Day sneaking up on us, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite heart-opening yoga poses. Heart-openers are therapeutic yoga poses that bring both physical and emotional benefits. I chose 9 different poses ranging from beginner to advanced. Each pose brings individual benefits, but they all form around emotional release and opening your heart to develop compassion and relieving anxiety and depression.

I’ve listed out my favorites below along with some tips and photos for illustration. My sweet big brother helped me with the photos for this blog….but not until after demanding to know why I killed the Chesire Cat from Alice in Wonderland to make my yoga leggings. You’ll see what he means when you scroll further.

cheshire-cat

So I hope you enjoy the poses (and my obnoxious, but fun leggings) as much as I do! Remember, I’m not a doctor, personal trainer, or yoga teacher. I’m just a person who has a passion for fitness, yoga, and Google. Therefore, please be cautious and careful when trying these poses and as always, please consult a physician beforehand if necessary.

Beginner

  1. Lord of the Dance or Natarajasana
    lord-of-the-dance

    • Tip: If you’re unable to find your balance, try placing your free hand on a wall to stabilize yourself.
    • Physical benefits: Stretches your shoulders, chest, thighs, groin, and abs. Strengthens your legs and improves your balance and digestive system.
    • Therapeutic benefits: Releases stress, improves concentration, and calms the mind.
    • Step-by-step instructions and more info: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/lord-of-the-dance-pose
  2. Fish Pose or Matsyasana
    fish-pose

    • Tip: If you’re unable to hold your legs in lotus (padmasana), try placing your legs straight out in front of you against the floor or even with your knees bent. You can also place a small pillow or a rolled towel under your spine for support.
    • Physical benefits: Stretches hip flexors and abs, strengthens upper back and neck to help improve posture. Relieves tension in your tummy to help with constipation and cramps.
    • Therapeutic benefits: Helps regulate your emotions and relieve anxiety
    • Step-by-step instructions and more info: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/fish-pose/
  3. Reverse Plank or Purvottanasana:
    reverse-plank

    • Tip: Use a wall or a chair to support your head, if necessary.
    • Physical Benefits: Strengthens arms, wrists, and legs. Stretches shoulders and ankles.
    • Therapeutic benefits: Helps free your mind and keep your heart open
    • Step-by-step instructions and more info: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/upward-plank-pose/

Intermediate:

  1. Camel Pose or Ustrasana
    camel-pose

    • Tip: If you’re unable to reach your hands to your feet, try placing yoga blocks outside of each foot.
    • Physical benefits: Strengthens your thighs and opens up the hip flexors, stretches your shoulders and back, opens your chest to improve respiration, loosens your spine and helps relieve lower back pain.
    • Therapeutic benefits: According to www.doyouyoga.com, it’s said to increase creativity and problem solving thanks to a change in perspective.
    • For step-by-step instructions or more info: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/camel-pose/
  2. Bow Pose or Dhanurasana
    bow-pose

    • Tip: If you can’t reach our toes or ankle, try using a yoga strap.
    • Physical benefits: Stretches the entire front body, strengthens back muscles, and improves posture.
    • Therapeutic benefits: Helps relieve stress and fatigue.
    • For step-by-step instructions or more info: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/bow-pose
  3. Wheel Pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana
    wheel-pose

    • Tip: If you’re unable to get into full wheel, try the reverse table top pose instead.
    • Physical benefits: Strengthens and lengthens vertebrae. Also strengthens arms, abs, shoulders, and chest.
    • Therapeutic benefits: According to www.gaia.com, this pose opens the chest and lungs to increase oxygen intake. It’s also believed to increase energy and counteracts depression and infertility.
    • Step-by-step instructions and more info: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/upward-bow-or-wheel-pose/

Advanced

  1. Little Thunderbolt or Laghu Vajrasana
    little-thunderbolt-pose

    • Tip: If you can’t lower your head all the way down, try using a yoga block for support.
    • Physical benefits: Increases spinal mobility, opens the chest and throat, strengthens the quads. It also improves posture and the digestive process.
    • Therapeutic benefits: Helps stabilize the mind and allows you to concentrate with calm awareness.
    • Step-by-step instructions and more info: http://www.yogamagazine.com/little-thunderbolt-pose/
  2. Lifted Camel or lifted Ustrasana
    lifted-camel

    • Tip: While in traditional camel pose, activate your quads and your glutes as you press your shins away from the floor and arch your spine as if your pulling your navel towards the sky.
    • Physical benefits: Strengthens the quads, glutes, and spine and helps improve digestive process.
    • Therapeutic benefits: Helps relieve anxiety and reduces stress
  3. Hollow Back Forearm Stand or Pincha Mayurasana
    hollowback-pincha

    • There are many different variations of the hollow back pincha (e.g. scorpion, split, bow and arrow, etc.). I went with the straight-legged version simply because I like the way it looks.
    • Tip: Use yoga straps or a yoga block to help keep your arms parallel to one another to form your foundation.
    • Physical benefits: Strengthens the shoulders, arms, legs, and spine. Stretches your abs and isolates the upper chest.
    • Therapeutic benefits: Calms the mind, increases your focus, provides the feeling of accomplishment aka the feeling of “badassery”.
    • Step-by-step instructions and more info: http://www.yogajournal.com/advanced/hollow-back/

So there you have it, some favorite heart-openers just in time for Valentine’s Day. I hope you all have happy hearts and happy minds as we approach the holiday (and always)! And if you don’t, try some of the poses mentioned above!

Until next time!

Your friend,
Angie

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