Three Yoga Poses for Your Heart
We know that exercise is just one part of tending to our heart. Stress, genetics and of course diet play important roles, with research showing that too much sugar can be a culprit toward inflammation that causes heart disease. That being said, yoga can bring added benefits, beyond just the physical exercise part.
These three poses and bonus visualization include what I call the three S’s. Stretching, strength and stillness. Strength works the muscles, supporting healthy bones and more. Holding a stretch for at least five breaths can invigorate the fascia, the connective tissue below the muscle bed that supports the muscles and organ system.
Practicing stillness can be like a mini-vacation, just allowing yourself to be. And it’s free! There is no right way to practice stillness. Just watch your thoughts, without judgment. It can be quite interesting to watch how your mind works. You don’t even need a mat to do this, you can stand on a rug, wooden floor or anyplace you’d like. Or for fun, try it outside.
Come to a standing position. Close your eyes if that is comfortable. Draw your attention inward.
Focus on your breath. Take several long inhales and slow long exhales through the nose. If you’d like you can count to four, slowly on each inhale and on each exhale. The counting helps engage the mind, like an unruly puppy, focusing the mind on counting or a mantra (powerful words like “peace in, peace out”) can help to reign in the endless thoughts generated by the mind.
Start standing with arms by your side and your toes spread to feel the support of the ground beneath you.
Practice standing in a balanced way, shoulders relaxed, your spine long. Then draw your arms up overhead, bringing your palms together and right through the center line of your body to your heart. Take your arms back to your side. Let this movement, of just the arms overhead, palms touch, hands to heart- flow for several minutes. This in itself can be a meditation. As for the exercise part, you are moving the arms and gently invigorating the circulation system.
Come back to standing with your arms by your side.
Step your left leg back and bend your front right knee into a high runner’s lunge.
With the legs in lunge, lift your arms to the sky, with the palms turning toward each other. Take long breaths.
When you ready, step the back leg forward and switch into a high runner’s lunge with the left leg bent forward and the right leg back. Arms high. Step back into standing after several breaths. The high lunge works the large muscle groups in the legs and helps free tension in the low back. Arms overhead gently stimulate the heart
Big Toe Pose
From standing, slowly relax your upper body into a standing forward bend. Release your neck and keep a micro-bend in the knees. Reach your big toes (you can use the thumb and pointer finger) and draw your torso toward your legs. This calms the brain, stretches the hamstrings and back of legs and is said to help ease high blood pressure. Enjoy for several breaths.
Finally come to any comfortable seated pose. Let your hands move into the center of your chest, the heart space. Visualize loving energy into the heart, imagine your heart is happy, even smiling a little bit and sending a smile to your heart. You can sit in stillness this way for as long as you’d like.
Sending waves of love to your heart, that remarkable organ that keeps our blood pumping and our bodies alive.
Happy Heart, Happy Practice!
– KELLEY COLIHAN ROBERTSON, E-RYT