Valentine’s Day is all about love. Traditionally characterized by roses, chocolates and cards, it is a day to celebrate gratitude and compassion toward yourself and others.
An open heart is the key to a compassionate and grounded practice. Your chest houses your physical heart organ, as well as the heart or Anahata chakra. When this area of the body is relaxed and open, you can breathe deeper, stand taller, and be physically and mentally open and compassionate toward yourself and others.
Make this Valentine’s Day special by celebrating with heart-opening yoga poses that stretch the muscles of the chest and shoulders. Be sure to warm up with five rounds of Sun Salutations of your choice.
Salamba Bhujangasana strengthens the spine and opens the chest and shoulders. It is particularly good for the lower back, and allows you to open the chest, breathe, and stretch. Feel free to hold this pose for up to five minutes to prepare for deeper backbends and feel grounded.
Reclined Cobbler’s Pose
Showing compassion toward yourself sometimes requires slowing down. Supta Baddha Konasana is a restorative pose that allows you to open your chest and hips while promoting circulation. It also helps prepare the body for chest and hip-openers, all while in a grounded supine position.
Bridge with Clasped Hands
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana strengthens the core and low body, cultivating focus. To open the chest, gently bring the shoulder blades toward one another and clasp the hands together. On an inhale, press into the clasped hands and forearms, lifting the chest. Gently tuck the chin toward the chest and hold the pose.
Ustrasana stretches the entire front of the body, opening the chest with a backbend. Listen to what your body needs, and place the hands on the low back for support or reach back to open the chest and explore a backbend. Allow yourself to breathe and relax.
Virabhadrasana II promotes concentration while opening the chest and hips. It also improves respiration, allowing you to connect with the breath. Holding the pose will help you feel powerful, so take your time exploring.
Warrior III with Cactus Arms
Virabhadrasana III is an intermediate pose that challenges and improves your balance and concentration while strengthening the entire body. Add a “cactus arms” variation by bending the elbows and gently reaching the shoulder blades toward one another.
Utkata Konasana strengthens the lower body and opens the chest, stimulating the respiratory system. This powerful pose helps you connect with your breath and build confidence.
Ardha Chandrasana takes confidence and heart to enter it and find your balance. The primary focus of the pose is often in the opening of the hips and strengthening in the lower body. Explore your foundation by shifting this focus on the hands, lengthening the top arm toward the sky and reaching the bottom hand toward the ground, gently touching the fingers to the mat.
Ardha Chandra Chapasana builds off of Half Moon pose by introducing a backbend and chest opener. From Half Moon, bend the top knee and allow the heel to come toward the back body. Using your balance and focus, reach the top hand toward the back foot, grabbing it and kicking outward.
This challenging pose opens the chest and hip while challenging your balance. It is all about finding the “sweet” spot of balance where you are challenged, yet strong and stable.
Opening your heart is a powerful action for both mind and body. Yoga can physically get your heart pumping to improve circulation and warmth in the body, and holistically open your mind and heart to be compassionate toward yourself and others—both on and off the mat.
Image credit: Andrea Taylor