Many heart-opening postures also happen to be backbends. Because the low back tends to be the most flexible part of the spine, it’s important to emphasize opening the heart by incorporating the bend into the upper and middle areas of the back. Repeated crunching in the lumbar region of the spine can result in injury over time. Below are some poses and pointers to help open your heart, lengthen your spine, and deepen your backbend. As always, those with injuries and limitations should speak to their doctor before attempting any deep bends.
Open the chest:
1. Cat/Cow Stretch – Move with the breath and try to visualize extending the spine from the top of the head all the way down to the tailbone.
2. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) – Emphasize rolling your shoulders down and firming the shoulder blades against the back in the pose.
3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose) – Firm your outer arms, lengthen the tailbone, and tuck your shoulders underneath you to really open the heart here.
·Stretch the arms and shoulders:
4. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog pose) – Roll your shoulders back and down before fully moving into this pose. Emphasize lifting the chest to avoid sinking in the low back.
5. Dolphin pose – Press the forearms actively into the floor. Firm and widen the shoulder blades away from the spine and down toward the tailbone to accentuate the shoulder stretch.
Deepen the bend and strengthen the back:
6. Salabhasana (Locust pose) – Clasp the hands behind you and press the scapulas into your back to open the chest and shoulders. Raise your arms, legs, and upper torso off of the floor to strengthen the spine.
Open the hip flexors and quads to stretch the whole front body:
7. Anjaneyasana (Low lunge pose) – Lift the chest and draw the tailbone down. Focus on incorporating the backbend into your upper back and avoid crunching in the lumbar as you reach up with the arms.