Five Pillars Yoga

Yoga For An Open Heart

Five Poses to Practice in The Face of Change

At the end of a deeply divided election, it’s fair to say that all of could use an injection of happiness, hope and optimism. Before spreading that message to our communities and reaching a hand out to those on the other side of the aisle, we need to first embody those qualities ourselves.

The first step in cultivating an open heart is to literally feel an open heart. Yoga is full of heart openers, postures in which the collarbones widen, the shoulder blades draw together around the spine, the abdomen protects the low back and the heart center lifts and fills.

Heart openers are stress-relieving and uplifting. A balm to the body and mind, they are also vulnerable and exposed. To offer up your heart is to offer yourself up without armor or explanation, a harder task than the most challenging asana. See our earlier post for more benefits and tips on front extensions.

The postures below can be done in sequence or on their own. Explore Yin or Restorative versions, with lots of props and plenty of time, to really open up.

Puppy Dog Pose, Anahatasana


A combination of Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog, Puppy Pose is a deep heart opener that offers the support of the floor to sink the chest into. If the floor feels impossibly far away, support your upper arms with blocks and bend at the elbows, meeting your hands in prayer overhead.

Upward Facing Bow Pose, Dhanurasana


In the traditional shape, both knees are bent and the outer edges of both feet are grasped. Try a one-sided variation and go for extra lift through the extended front arm.

Camel Pose, Ustrasana


A strong heart opener needs a clear support system. In Camel, roll the inner thighs toward the midline, keep your hip points stacked over your knees and imagine your legs pressed firmly against a wall (or, better yet, press your legs firmly against a wall!). Start with your toes tucked under, tops of feet lifted, and work your way to feet flat against the floor.

Wheel Pose, Dhanurasana


Probably the biggest and best known heart opener of all, full Wheel Pose is energizing and demanding. Keep the outer edges of your feet parallel and hips-width distance apart. Rest on the crown of your head before pushing into the full posture and be sure to release any tension or straining in the neck. Play with narrowing the distance between your feet and hands as you breath your heart up and out.

Reclined Bound Angle Pose, Supta Baddha Konasana


For a chill solo pose or the integrating shape at the end of a sequence, Supta Baddha Konasana cannot be beat. We explored a Restorative version in our Deep Sleep post, and offer a few more supported heart-melters here. If you can, treat yourself to props and extra support. Here, with the floor or a bolster beneath the spine you can feel into the breath filling the length of the torso, from the belly up into the chamber of the heart. Take the opportunity to breathe deeply and offer something, perhaps yourself, up fully.

Photos: Top image; Taryn Toomy in Puppy Pose; Bow; Camel; Wheel; Supta Baddha Konasana