Hala Okeili shows us some heart opening yoga postures.
We sit with a hunched back most of our lives. From school to university, to office, our bodies adapt to always being in a mild forward fold, flexing the spine, tightening the areas at the front of the body, and unfortunately weakening the back of the body. Soon enough most people complain from hunched backs, bad posture, and back pain.
On a physical level, heart opening postures that open the front of the body will counter pose this body limitation, improving the posture, and building immunity from back pain.
I used to feel so limited in these kind of postures. I felt I had no space to bend backwards. I was so used to sitting on my laptop for long hours rounding my back. That my posture made it impossible for me in the beginning to backbend.
On an emotional level, I was holding so many fears that whenever I would try to bend backwards, it felt like I could not breathe.
Heart opening poses open new spaces in your body, but especially in your mind, helping us surrender the ego to humility and compassion.
When you start to see your body doing what seemed impossible one day. When you start to breathe in a stuck situation, this will start to interpret off your mat and in real life.
This will teach you to breathe even in tight and stuck situations.
This healing practice will show you the way. Trust the process.
• Mermaid Pose.
Mermaid Pose or full pigeon is a variation of Pigeon Pose. It combines the hip-opening stretch with a beautiful heart-opening backbend.
Start by coming into pigeon pose on the right side. Hold it for few breaths. Then begin to bend your left leg and draw your left foot in toward your body. I like to start this pose by reaching back with my left hand to my left foot, squeezing the foot towards the left buttock, holding it there for few breaths. This helps open the quadriceps. You can stay there.
To go further, hook your left arm around your left foot. You can keep the right hand on the floor for support, or to deepen reach up with the right hand to grab the left hand. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
I absolutely love this posture, as it helps me open my quadriceps, hips, groins, back, chest, and shoulders. I like to use it also as preparation for deeper hip openers and deeper backbends such as king pigeon (kapotasana) or wheel pose.
• Warrior Pose:
A posture that brings out a warrior in us ready to open his heart.
Accessible for all levels, this posture strengthens the body while opening the heart center. Start in a downward dog, step your right foot next to your right hand, turn your back foot towards the long edge of the mat, bend the right leg to bring your ankle in line with your knee, and extend the arms up towards the sky, as a gesture of opening. Square your hips to face the front of the mat, engage your legs, and take your gaze up towards infinite possibilities.
This posture strengthen the entire body but also the mind. It extends the spine and opens the heart to make us fierce yet compassionate like true warriors.
• Reverse Warrior
From Warrior 1, go to Warrior 2 by opening your hips to face the long edge of the mat, turning the back toes more outwards towards 90 degrees. Extend the front arm forward and reverse it backwards by bringing it in line with your ear with the palm of the hand facing the floor. Turn the chest towards the sky, and breathe deeply. Let the back hand rest on your back leg as a sign of humility. Keep extending the spine by reaching up and back to deepen the posture.
This posture strengthens the legs, arms, core while opening the shoulders and chest and extending the spine in a gentle backbend. It teaches us to find softness in strength.
• Split, Monkey Pose, or Hanumanasana
This posture is a deep stretch for the hamstrings and hip flexors. It should be approached safely. Start in downward dog, take your right leg up and step your right foot forward between the hands, slide your left knee back, hold this lunge for 5 breaths sinking the hips down to earth.
Now walk the right foot slightly forward, extend the right leg, keep the left knee and the left hip in one line. Keep the hips squared to the front of the mat. Flex the right toes. Hold this for 5 breaths.
To go to the full pose, start to carefully walk the front foot forward and the back foot back, while maintaining the squaring of the hips. Stay in a place that is comfortable. If your hips and hamstrings allow you to, go to the full extension of the pose, resting the hands on the floor. To deepen the pose, and only if you are comfortable in a full split, reach the arms up, while continuously working on the squaring of the hips. Make sure that the legs stay engaged and the hips stay squared.
This posture stretches the hamstrings, thighs, and groins. But beyond its physical benefits, this posture teaches us to find comfort in uncomfortable situation. It mentally challenges me, which makes me stronger in life.
• Compass Pose
This is an intermediate level posture. Make sure you prepare the body before entering into this pose. It requires open shoulders, hamstring and hips. Some preparatory poses are Triangle pose, lizard lunge, bound side angle (baddha parsvakonasana), Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), and Revolved Head to Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana).
Start in Janu Sirsasana on the left side, take the right knee into right elbow and right foot into left hand. To deepen, wrap arms around shin and slowly bring spine upright. Breathe for 5 deep breaths. (If you want rock the shin to loosen up the hip joint.) From there, take with the right hand the right ankle, and place the right leg on top of the right shoulder and take left hand over and to the outer edge of right foot. Hold for 5 breaths.
From there, release right hand to the ground, and start to bring the head under left shoulder. Start to extend the right leg to any point that feels good, and breathe deeply for five.
This posture feels great as it opens the side of the body, the shoulders, hamstrings, and the hips. There is a feeling of expansion in this posture. It reduces tension in the shoulders, it can help with tension headaches, stress, and also helps to improve overall posture.
Follow Hala on @yogiinbeirut
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