When the body is tight and closed off, you might feel as if energy is brewing inside you and ready to explode. Rather than go off on your co-worker, fight with your significant other, or make rash decisions from impatience, get to your mat and soak up positivity from your practice: more feelings of love, generosity, compassion, and the courage to be humble about what you don’t know but are ready to learn. At the same time, your body might just feel better with a little more openness and release of everything that’s locked up. Try this heart-balancing sequence to encourage bright perspective and be optimistic about possibilities.
Sama Vritti (Equal Breath)
Breathe in equal parts to build your life energy, but simultaneously calm anxiety, and soothe the nervous system to support heart health.
Sit comfortably and upright; breathe so your inhale and exhale are for the same amount of time. Try counting to four our six for both, and breathe in and out of your nose to lengthen and expand your breath.
Flow between two poses to stretch the torso, enhance mobility in the spine, and open up the front and the back of the chest to build courage to be flexible in love.
On your hands and knees, facing the mat, place your palms underneath your shoulders, and knees underneath your hips. Inhale, lift your tailbone, and let your belly drop a bit, and stretch across the front of your chest as you roll your shoulders back and keep your arms straight.
Exhale, tuck your tailbone under, lift your belly button toward your spine, and bring your chin into your chest, lifting your upper back to the sky. Repeat, matching breath and motion.
Bhujangasana-Balasana (Cobra-Child’s Pose)
Uplift yourself and feel grounded as you explore new experiences and strengthen the muscles of your spine; then stretch the muscles of your back and along your spine while soothing your mind and heart.
Lie on your belly, flat, with your forehead on the mat, legs close together and the tops of your feet flat and pressing down. Plant your palms by your lower ribs with your elbows pointing up and behind you. Inhale, and drag your palms back lightly against the resistance of the sticky mat to lift your face and heart to feel a width across the front of the shoulders and expand the front of the heart space. Keep your legs grounded and your neck lengthy as you continue to breathe.
From Cobra, exhale and press back with your hands as you lift your torso and move your rear back onto your heels, laying your belly on your thighs and forehead on the mat. Breathe across your entire back, but especially the upper back, expanding the back of the heart space.
Anjaneyasana-Ardha Hanumanasana (Low Crescent Moon to Half Monkey Pose)
Feel the power of your body and soul, optimistic for new beginnings, then bow to the quiet, thoughtful, and humble nature that resides within.
From hands and knees, step your right foot forward inside your right hand. Lower your left knee and the top of your left foot. Root down in the entire left leg, inhale, and lift your torso with straight arms upward. Let your heart feel like it’s peeking forward through your shoulders. Bend your front knee at a deeper angle, feeling a stretch in the front of the left hip, but keep reaching upward and back to support your lower back and continue lifting your heart.
From Anjaneyasana, exhale to straighten your right leg and flip up your toes toward your face to flex your foot. At the same time, fold forward at the hips with your upper body, placing your hands or fingertips on either side of the front leg that’s extended. Try to keep your spine long as you bow inside. Flow between both with your breath, then repeat on the left side.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog)
Open up the sides of your body for deep breathing and a shift in your perspective.
From hands and knees, inhale, tuck your toes, lift your knees and belly, lift your rear and hips straight up and back, then exhale as you straighten your legs, and drop your heels toward the earth. Keep your hands planted, your arms straight, and room between your shoulders and your ears. If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees slightly, press into your palms more and lengthen the spine.
Shiva Natarajasana (Dancer’s Pose)
Build energy and balance while you spark empowerment in the heart and dance on your demons.
Stand on your left foot and imagine the surface of your foot reaches below the surface. With your knees together, bend your right leg at the knee and keep that knee facing the mat versus floating out to the side. Catch your right ankle with your right hand (you can hold the inside or the outside). Press your lifted leg back into your hand to lengthen your arm and press your leg backward to move the knee behind you. At the same time, reach your left hand straight up and keep lifting the chest. Try not to lean forward, but instead make a “U” shape with your upper body and lifted leg to let the heart rise from the ground up. Repeat on the other side.
Jathara Parivarthasana (Reclined Twists)
Give your back muscles a little massage and encourage spine mobility while experiencing a deep release of the past to refresh yourself for the future.
Lying on your back, bring your knees to your chest, with your ankles uncrossed. Let both legs together fall over to your left side. Try to keep your legs together if you can. Extend your arms wide from your shoulders in a “T” shape.
Breathe deeply, and each time you exhale, feel the front of your shoulders melt backward and behind you to wring out your worries. (If your right shoulder is floating off the mat, place a blanket underneath the left leg to lessen the rotation and support your shoulder.) Repeat on the other side.
Restorative Heart Opener
Release the stiffness in your joints, and dissolve the hardness in your heart to let go of stuck emotions.
Take a blanket and fold it into a long, slim bolster to the length between your lower back and beyond the top of your head—it can be flat or cylindrical. Make sure there are no lumps. Sit at the edge of one of the long ends, but not on the actual blanket. Lie down so the blanket-bolster starts at lower back underneath your spine and supports the back of your head when you lie down on it. Let your shoulders cascade off the sides of the elevated heart, as if they’re letting things roll off of your shoulders. Step your feet as wide as the mat so the pinkie toes touch the edge. Let your knees fall toward each other and create space in the sacrum.
Photos by Hailey Wist