Top 10 Benefits of Heart Openers
Having recently completed my yoga teacher training, I can thankfully say I have gained a ton of knowledge on not only the background and philosophies of yoga but also on the anatomy and biology behind a long list of alignments. These physical stances not only tame the mind but also do a lot for release in the body.
Something I took interest in was our internal storage of emotion. I learned our brain stores memories just as our body stores feelings. Our hips and heart primarily, among countless other “storage facilities” within our body remember the events of our past.
Dr. Candace Pert, a neuropharmacologist from NIH and Georgetown University Medical Center, explained her research on how our physical bodies are changed by the emotions we experience:
“A feeling sparked in our mind-or body-will translate as a peptide being released somewhere. [Organs, tissues, skin, muscle and endocrine glands], they all have peptide receptors on them and can access and store emotional information. This means the emotional memory is stored in many places in the body, not just or even primarily, in the brain. You can access emotional memory anywhere in the peptide/receptor network, in any number of ways. I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body. The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.”
Dr. Monica Gauci also stated in her publication “Opening the Heart” in 2013, “ Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and modern healing arts such as Applied Kinesiology work with the notion that various emotions tend to be stored in specific organs and their corresponding muscles.”
Have you ever held a Camel pose in class and wondered why it was so difficult to breathe through it? Or lifted up into Wheel and could only think of when you would come back down to your mat? Yeah, these are heart openers for you. So what’s their purpose, or better yet, their benefits?
Unsurprisingly, there’s more than 10, but to give you motivation not to skip them within your practice, read our top ten benefits below:
These yoga postures are meant to expand your thoracic cavity, the location of your heart, as well as your diaphragm, the floor of this cavity which separates your lungs and heart from the organs below.
The lack of this expansion overtime results in lower back and neck pain from the cervical and lumbar regions overcompensating for the lack of movement in your mid back.
Flexible Rib Cage
Expanding your heart space essentially allows your ribs to stretch out as well. Difficult to practice without specific yoga postures like backbends, the other method would be Pranayama breathing techniques to fully expand your lungs.
The result of a flexible rib cage allows increased blood flow to the heart and the ability to breath deeper, taking in more air at a time.
Experience Better Breathing
Expanding your rib cage and improving the flexibility of your lungs ensures more air with each inhale and exhale. Not only do longer, deeper breaths help your practice performance for each asana, but it also aids with decreased anxiety, improved sleep quality, energy levels, and digestion.
Your breath is everything. Your life force. The reason you wake up tomorrow morning.
Improve Heart Chakra Health
The Heart Chakra, or Anahata chakra, symbolizes the energy source for compassion and love for yourself and others.
“The ancient scripture the Mahanirvana Tantra allocates specific negative emotions to individual petals of the heart chakra. Opening the heart chakra unblocks stuck energy helping to heal our emotional and psychological wounds.”
- Dr. Monica Gauci’s “Opening The Heart” published April 8, 2013
Cleanse Out Old Emotions
“Emotionally, it is the nutrients of acceptance, trust, and forgiveness that enable us to digest, assimilate and detoxify the hurts we harbour in
- Dr. Monica Gauci
We are said to have three hearts. Our physical heart, our emotional heart, and our spiritual heart. We remove pain and suffering from being stored in our hearts when our innermost heart is unveiled to ourselves.
Opening the heart is more than a deep thoracic cavity stretch, the pressure we feel in our heart’s space also draws attention to all three hearts, revealing a clear picture of what’s really beneath the surface.
Our mind connects with the thoughts that surface from this release, and our exhale sends old emotions away.
Reverse Bad Posture
Shoulder tightness, hunching forward, and extending our neck out of line with our spine are all resulting issues from bad posture.
Dr. Monica Gauci, certified Yoga Therapist;Doctor of Chiropractic; and Certified Applied Kinesiologist, studied bad posture and discovered how human beings round their shoulders and body forward or inward in order to protect their heart when carrying internal wounds. Even accepting this bad posture without internal wounds sends the signal to the body to feel depressed, less confident, and less happy
Backbends, or heart openers, counteract the effects of bad posture by .
Create Anatomical Balance
We forward fold more than any other body movement. If you think about creating that balance, our own yin and yang to the body, backbends present our body with the alternative movement to counteract the effects of one-sided mobility. By keeping a harmonized practice, you’ll ensure balance on and off the mat.
Can Be Done Anywhere, Anytime
You totally have the option to break out a low lunge in the office or in Target, be our guest, but heart openers are one of the easier postures to break out without catching a ton of eyeballs.
Whether you use a doorway to open your shoulders, or take Puppy Dog pose up against a wall, you can find a good deep, heart-opening stretch anywhere and anytime.
Give & Feel More Love
When the heart, and the heart’s space, is open, we feel more love. In response to being more open to receiving love, naturally we are also more able to share this feeling with others.
10. Because It Feels Good
That euphoric feeling after leaving an intense yoga class, where nothing negative really matters as much as it used to and you almost feel dizzy with easiness. I personally blame heart openers and backbends. Exercise generally releases endorphins within the body, but yoga specifically has another more powerful effect on the mind and spirit.
In every yoga class, there are backbends. These heart openers are one of the sole reasons why we and everyone else has wondered how yoga can impact your life.
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