A Second Anahata Practice
Asanas that work with Anahata include most back bends, positions that most people either love or hate. When practicing, it’s important to think about both the spine and the front of the body. Rather than flopping backwards, with its inherent potential for injury, successful back-bending requires the commitment to gentleness as well as the concomitant use of the chest muscles. Move slowly and with precision, and never push beyond what is comfortable for your body.
Begin on your back. Place one hand on your chest, the other on your belly, and take the time to connect with your breathing. Don’t try to change the inhalation or exhalation. Instead, be there and enjoy experiencing a miracle that we often overlook. Note where the breath seems to be going; is it directed to the belly, to the chest, or to both places?
When you are ready to move on, take a series of rolling bridges before moving into a static Bridge Pose, or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. You might pretend that there is a string attached to the bone covering the heart, pulling that area up towards the sky. Hold for a few breaths, and then turn over onto your hands and knees. Extend the right and and left leg to come into Bird Dog; hold the balance for a moment before releasing and repeating on the other side.
When you are ready, move into a series of Cat-Cow, or Bitilasana and Marjaryasana, again leading from the chest – the same string is now pulling you to the opposite wall. After a few repetitions, add Balasana, or Child’s Pose, into the mix, moving between the three poses for a few moments.
From here, continue your warm-up by coming into Standing Forward Fold, or Uttanasana, and then moving into your choice of Sun Salutations: Half Surya Namaskar or the full A, B, or C series. You might, for example, combine two halves with one C on each side, again focusing on the chest area when you come into Kneeling Warrior.
If you need more standing poses, move into the Open-Hip Series by taking Virabhadrasana II followed by Trikonasana and Parsvakonasana. This will continue the expansion of your chest area by opening the muscles along the side of the torso, inside your ribcage. As an added bonus, it will help with any asthma issues and generally feel wonderful!
From here, place yourself, belly down, on your mat. Take a moment to relax with your forehead on your hands, and then come into Sphinx Pose. Hold this for a few breaths before moving into Bhujangasana, or Cobra Pose; if Yin positions are in your practice, you might also take and hold Seal for a few breaths. Follow this with variations on Locust Pose, or Salambhasana, again focusing on the string at your chest pulling you forward. Finish with Dhanurasana, or Belly Bow Pose, as your apex asana.
Begin your cooldown with by flipping over onto your back and taking another series of Rolling and Static Bridge poses. Add a reclined twist to release any tension in your back. Then give yourself permission to take a nice relaxing Savasana. You might begin this by placing your hands on your chest and belly as you did before to see how your breathing has been changed or deepened by your practice. Namaste!
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