February has always been synonymous with Love and Romance. Thanks to the likes of big Hallmark holidays like Valentine’s Day, we are often pressured to focus on love and relationships in the context of something we have with other people. In the spirit of a reflection on love, Kimm and Cianne (in-house yogis) were wondering how you take care of yourself in the midst of a busy life: what are your self love rituals, mantras, or non-negotiables, and how has this changed from past years? During the month of February, our Yoga classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights will be focusing on self love, self care and how we can continue foster a loving relationship with ourselves. How do we open our hearts both physically and emotionally?
With the arrival of bone-chilling winds and low temperatures, it’s natural to want to hunch forward and curl into ourselves to keep warm. This rounding of the shoulders and curving of the upper spine creates a stretching of the back rotator cuffs, and a shortening of the front rotator cuffs. This makes it incredibly difficult to open the chest. Opening the chest means shoulders melting down on the back away from the ears, hips stacked above knees, and the tailbone tucked. This alignment forces us to engage the core, and strengthen the back. Heart opening poses lift the chest, offering a gentle release of whatever is tucked away hiding in the back of your heart.
A few heart-openers to try:
1. Sitting: while sitting at your desk or on the couch, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your arms to shoulder height and bend your elbows so that you are in a cactus position. Gently push your elbows back until you feel a stretch through your chest. Hold for 3-10 seconds, and don’t forget to breathe.
2. Standing: stand with hips stacked over knees, hands at your side. Bring your arms overhead and clasp your hands. You can leave your forefingers extended if you wish. Gently lift your chin and look towards the ceiling – your middle and upper back should follow along naturally into a slight back bend. Don’t feel like you need to over-extend – small movements make a big difference with heart-opening poses!
3. Laying down: place a bolster or stack of short pillows on the floor, and lay on top of them with the pillows under your tailbone to shoulder blades. Your head and hips should be making contact with the floor, while the pillows help lift your heart towards the ceiling. Place your arms beside you, palms up, or rest one hand on the belly and one on the heart. Relax in this restorative pose for up to 5 minutes. Be sure to get up slowly, as some blood may have rushed to your head!