The international day of yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of this ancient practice. Recognising its universal appeal, on 11 Dec 2014, the united nations proclaimed 21 June as the international day of yoga and the theme for 2017 celebration is yoga for health and wellbeing. Let us celebrate this day by bringing the qualities of sadhana to our lives – in other words, using everything as a tool for our wellbeing. Sadhana does not mean any specific action or activity, It is more to do with our attitude every morning when we get out of bed and the way we conduct our body, mind and emotions.
This term we are focussing on opening up the chest and lungs; this area corresponds to the heart chakra. This is the area where our physical and spiritual sides meet. It is the fourth chakra and includes our heart, cardiac plexus, thymus gland, lungs, breasts and governs our lymphatic system. The Sanskrit word for this chakra is Anahata, which means “unstruck” or “unhurt” which conveys the idea that underneath our pain and distress is a place where no hurt exists. For example, when our heart chakra is open, we live with love and compassion, we forgive quickly and are more accepting of others and ourselves.
Yoga chest openers certainly can help attain this as well as reverse any mechanical constriction that can overcomes our bodies during the day. The physical demands of our lives have a way of drawing the chest in on itself. Working at the computer or behind the wheel often rounds our shoulders and causes the upper body to slump. Specifically, our pectoral muscles scrunch up while our upper back muscles become weak. This muscle imbalance can cause chest pain and restrict our range of movement. It can also reduce the amount of oxygen we get to our lungs because it can affect our intercostal muscles and so it can continue, even causing lower back pain.
Chest openers are also particularly good for releasing negative emotions. The more we expand our sternum, rib cage and the rest of our upper body with chest openers, the more blood, oxygen and circulation will invigorate us both mentally and physically. We have started some controlled breathing exercises known as Pranayama. They are one of the best ways to open our chest. When we consciously fill lungs with air and hold the breath at the end of each inhale and exhale, we begin to bring flexibility into our chest cavity. Our blood is oxygenated, it soothes the mind and energises our nervous system.
Yoga has many chest opening exercises such as Bow or Camel, which some people can find hard, but as always, we must choose our own modifications to suit our bodies and minds and so this term I will be focusing on helping you develop the poses and movements which will allow you to gain space in such a wonderfully important chakra.
Term ends on Monday 31 July.