Yoga practice

Opening up for positive emotions

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on embodied cognition and how chest-opening and uplifting postures can have a positive effect on your mood. In this sequence you will find some asanas that open your heart to let in the positive and happy vibes, which you may need sometimes when you’re feeling down. Some of them are quite challenging, always keep in mind that it’s not about achieving or mastering the pose; stay mindful about your body and breath, keep it playful and have some fun experimenting!

 

The first one is a crescent lunge (anjaneyasana), warming up your body for the backbending that you will do in the asanas that follow. You can do them as part of sun salutations or just on its own. When you’re in the low lunge, make sure your hips are in one line for stability. Raise your arms up and feel your chest expanding; maybe lift up even more and look at your hands, slightly dropping your head back. Take a few breaths and notice how you feel.

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The second asana is camel pose (ustrasana), which you can do in different ways. Always start with your knees hip width apart, pelvis over knees. Pull your navel in to protect your lower back. Then, the first option is to support your lower back with your hands and bend your upper back, lifting up your heart towards the sky. Another option is to reach towards your ankle with one hand, keeping the lift in your chest and pushing your hips forward, reaching back with your other hand. Switch sides after a few breaths. A different way is to reach both hands to your ankles, dropping your crown toward the mat. If you experience neck pain, keep looking forward or up. Focus on opening your chest and radiate positivity, maybe with a smile on your face.

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The third asana is wheel pose (chakrasana), for me the ultimate heart opener which makes me feel happy and free. Your back should be quite flexible for this one, so try some preparing poses such as cobra, locust or bridge. If you feel your arm strength is not sufficient yet for wheel pose, you could try bow pose (dhanurasana), which is a similar pose but starts with your stomach on the floor, lifting your shoulders and knees up by grabbing your ankles and pushing your feet into your hands.
If you are ready for wheel pose, start laying down on your back with feet hip width apart and your hands next to your ears, strongly pushing into the mat. Then lift your hips up and place the crown of your head on the mat. Breathe in and stretch your arms and legs as much as you can, relax your neck and push your weight towards your hands. Enjoy the feeling of freedom and expansion!
To come out of the pose, place the crown of your head back on the mat, then bring your chin to your chest and slowly roll your spine back on the mat, vertebrae by vertebrae. Relax and also enjoy this feeling of relief after effort. Notice how you are feeling.

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The final asana is happy baby pose (Ananda balasana); great to neutralize your spine without reversing the opening of the chest that you have worked on with the previous poses, as you would do in other common restoring poses (such as child pose or nose-to-knee pose). For happy baby, grab the soles of your feet with your hands. Relax your neck and spine fully on the floor, and let your knees sink down next to your ribs. It’s a hip opener too, but don’t worry too much about how far your knees can reach; rather focus on the sensations in your spine. Try to relax your shoulders, let them melt down onto the mat.
You could rock from side to side; feel free to be playful, after all, it’s a happy baby that you are embodying! Notice how this makes you feel, mindful and compassionate towards yourself.

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