In the yoga world we try to sequence (choreograph) our classes and practices to help the body do a variety of things.
Sometimes it is truly just to relax, breathe, and feel back with yourself.
Sometimes it is to sweat, feel stronger and accomplished–change your body physically which of course works back to our mental needs, too.
And sometimes it is all about energy work–security, creativity, empowerment, love, confidence, intuition, and overall balance and understanding.
In February–with Valentine’s Day, what better time to focus on opening that heart space and how to tap into those loving emotions. Whether you need to cultivate love and kindness for frustrating or lonely times–or want to celebrate love and admiration of someone in particular and of course for yourself, these postures may help!
Start with grounding yourself; whether you believe in energy work or not–heart openers can bring up some emotions and feelings you may not understand or even recognize are speaking to you! Let your body release them and listen to what your body is telling you!
Things to remember:
WARM UP: never go straight into your back bends! Warm up the front of your hips, warm up your arms and shoulders, and make sure you warm up adequately for the level of challenge you are hoping to achieve! (a little back bend needs a little warm up–a BIG back bend needs a LOT of warm up)
Don’t overdo it! If you feel tingly, pinching, sensations in your nose or fingers–STOP!
BREATHE while in your pose!
In cobra, we stay low to the ground. It actually is fairly suitable for warming things up; keep your elbows by your side and use your upper back strength to lift the shoulders as if you want to press them back behind you.
In upward facing dog, we take cobra to a higher intensity–be sure you are warm for this one for sure! Arms should be extended and engaged, thighs should be engaged+drawing toward one another+and off the mat, and you should feel more LENGTHENING in your spine than back bending!
A standing back bend is also one was to open the chest and explore upper body movement–but without losing that sensation of grounding through the feet! Pictured above may be too intense for you, so try just looking UP first!
ADD a back bend in other poses! In this grounded lunge, the shoulders are pressing back and the chest is opening toward the front of the mat and eventually upwards. There are MANY postures that allow heart opening possibilities! What others can you think of? How about pigeon, tree pose, and warrior 3?
ADVANCED back bends look cool…but can actually cause you hard–so be sure you are balanced, ready for deeper bending and have the core stability to try things like scorpion and king variations! Scorpion variations is one popular term for inversions allowing the feet to drop down behind the head; a king version is a more popular wording for reaching back for one or both feet with both hands and bringing them to the head (such as in dancer and pigeon).
Remember, the fullest expression of the pose is NEVER a requirement and can be dangerous–so stay where you are and work to what your body craves…not what you see on instagram!
Bend and open and feel all the love this February!