1. Reverse damage
Without changing your current posture, take a moment to become aware of your chest and notice your ability to take a deep breath. As you're reading this post, sit up taller, roll your shoulders back and down, and take a deep breath. That was a very gentle heart opener. You came out of the hunched over position and gave your heart and lungs a bit more space to do their jobs. Think about all of the time we spend curled forward. Maybe as you sit at your computer, in the car, or on the couch, or as you look down at your phone, your body has devolved to the point where rounding forward feels more natural to you than being straight. Heart openers can help reverse some of the damage created by frequent slouching.
2. Better Breathing
You probably felt it just now. You can take a much deeper breath when you open the chest. Stretching around the rib cage and creating more space for your lungs creates more space for your breath. Longer, deeper breaths stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system's "rest and digest" response. Your rewards for better breathing include decreased stress and anxiety, better immunity, sleep, and digestion, and an increase in energy.
3. Backache Schmackache
Postures that "open the heart" such as wild thing (pictured), fish, bridge, sphinx, camel, help you expand throughout the thoracic cavity, where your heart is, as well as your diaphragm, the muscle that separates your lungs and heart from the organs below. If you don't stretch out the thoracic area, your upper and lower (cervical and lumbar) spine may eventually overcompensate, resulting in neck and/or lower back pain.
4. All You Need is Love
The subtle body houses our energy centers. The heart chakra is associated physically with our chest, arms, and hands and psychologically with our ability to give and receive love and sympathy. Someone with a "broken heart" is likely to protect this area, but to heal, we need to open up the heart chakra and clear out any blockages.
5. It Feels Awesome
It's no mistake that the bija or "seed sound" for the heart chakra is "yummmm." (Translated as "yam" but pronounced yum.) Heart openers can feel yummy! Once upon a time, long, long ago, I was not a fan of heart openers. I preferred forward bends, balance poses, even planks. When it was time for bridge pose or camel, I felt my whole body and mind tighten up with resistance. Once I became aware of this resistance, I worked more on heart openers. I allowed myself to breathe through the mental, physical, and emotional discomfort, and I realized I was protecting myself and hiding out in forward bends. With time and practice, I leaned into those back bends. Now, I prefer heart openers to almost everything, and I believe that we need them more than anything else for balance in the body.
Hope to see you soon for some yummy heart openers!