Beat the Blues by Opening Your Heart

Looking for a pick-me-up for your heart? I think we could all use one now and then. Here are some delicious ways to simultaneously lift your heart and mood.

B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the world's famous yoga guru's, has a great saying that goes "if you keep your armpits open, you won't get depressed”. Like him, I have found one of the best ways to lift my mood is by physically lifting my heart.

(NOTE: When Iyengar says armpits, he's referring to the area where your arm attaches to your chest, not necessarily the part where you shave — you don't have to walk around with your hands above your head to stay happy.) :]

Just as we can practice heart opening in our thoughts and emotions, we can also experience opening the heart space in our physical body to lift our spirits. While this advice might sound odd, think about the typical posture of someone who is depressed or sad: head hanging, chin drooping, shoulders rounded forward and heart completely closed off. How does it make you feel when you sit that way? Go ahead, try it. Now, try rolling your shoulders up and back and lifting your head and heart. How does that feel?

There is something to be said about standing tall, with shoulders back and collarbones expanding, that is more than a physical experience. That stance is a symbol of readiness, ability, self-respect confidence, trust, and determination. That stance is also an attraction for all forms of love and goodness to come our way. Our heart is a symbol of love, both from others and ourselves, and when our heart is closed, it is less able to receive. However, when we are able to open and lift our heart to cultivate a relationship with ourselves that is the same kind of relationship we want from other people, we are enabled to become stronger, more independent and able to attract and accept healthy, genuine love.

More benefits? Heart opening poses offer benefits on many levels, both physically and mentally. Positive connections have been shown between heart opening poses and improved heart health, such as

-Reduction of high blood pressure
-Improvement in treating symptoms of heart failure
-Easing palpitations
-Enhancing cardiac rehabilitation
- Lowering cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and stress hormones
-Supporting regular heart rhythms
All the poses I've shown below also provide stretching and strengthening for your muscles and relaxation, however the most important thing is to just lift your heart.

 

Here are a few poses to get you started:

Fish Pose

 Fish pose is great for opening the heart, relieving lower back pain, stretching the internal organs, abdominals and hips, strengthening the back and improving posture. Be sure to put the top of your head on the ground so as not to strain your neck. If this is hard for you, just put your elbows down by your side for support.

Fish pose is great for opening the heart, relieving lower back pain, stretching the internal organs, abdominals and hips, strengthening the back and improving posture. Be sure to put the top of your head on the ground so as not to strain your neck. If this is hard for you, just put your elbows down by your side for support.

Upward Plank Pose

 Fingers facing your feet with palms flat on the ground, shoulders rolled down your back and hips lifted high.

Fingers facing your feet with palms flat on the ground, shoulders rolled down your back and hips lifted high.

Camel Pose

 If you can't reach your heels, place your hands on your back like you're putting them in back jean pockets. Keep your hips forward over your knees and place the knees no more than 2 fists width apart. Reach up with that sweet, sweet heart!

If you can't reach your heels, place your hands on your back like you're putting them in back jean pockets. Keep your hips forward over your knees and place the knees no more than 2 fists width apart. Reach up with that sweet, sweet heart!

Side Twist
 

 Twist up to the sky, looking under your elbow.  Shoulder blades drip down your back and allow your heart to expand with each inhale.

Twist up to the sky, looking under your elbow.  Shoulder blades drip down your back and allow your heart to expand with each inhale.

Bridge Pose

 Weight is in your shoulders and feet, never the neck. Hips lift high to the sky. Knees over the ankles. Each inhalation expands the heart and collar bones. Ahh yes.

Weight is in your shoulders and feet, never the neck. Hips lift high to the sky. Knees over the ankles. Each inhalation expands the heart and collar bones. Ahh yes.

A great way to stay uplifted is to practice breathing in each position for two to three minutes, a few times a week if not every day. You'll be rewarded with deep relaxation, improved breath awareness, opened heart space, and love.