Let Love In: 6 Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart
It’s the season of love. Love is in the air and all around us. From heart-shaped chocolate boxes in the supermarkets to couple’s yoga classes, it’s undeniable that it’s the time of year when we’re asked to let love in.
But how do we do this? We spend most of our lives existing in constricting movement patterns that close off our hearts. We hunch over in front of our computers and slump our chests when we’re cold. The very bone structure of our spines invites us to fold forward with the force of gravity when our muscles fatigue.
So, how can we counter this? How can we truly open our hearts to let love in?
We know that our physical bodies can drastically affect our mental bodies and vice versa. So we can begin with gentle backbends and heart openers to physically peel away any tension that may be blocking our heart centers. And from there, we can dive within to reach the deepest depths of our own hearts to open ourselves up to love completely.
6 Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart to Let Love In
1. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
This gentle heart opener is accessible to most and offers a soft and sweet opening through your chest to create newfound space in your heart.
1. Lie down flat on your belly.
2. Relax your legs into any position of comfort. They can be hip-distance apart or wider or narrower. Find what feels most comfortable for your lower back.
3. Lift your right foot off the floor and reach your foot toward the back of your mat. Imagine that you’re trying to draw your right thighbone away from your hip socket. Ever so slightly, spiral your right thigh inward, and release your foot to the floor. Repeat the same actions with your left leg.
4. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders with your fingertips just peeking out above them.
5. Roll your shoulders down your back and hug your shoulder blades together. Soften your shoulders down away from your ears.
6. Energetically, drag your hands toward the back of your mat to create traction to help lengthen your spine.
7. Keep this length and inhale to lift your head and chest off the floor and reach them forward in space toward the top of your mat.
8. Once you find the length, then slightly lift your chest upward, all the while maintaining that forward reaching action.
9. Peel open through your heart, broaden your chest, and draw your navel in toward your spine.
10. Visualize yourself peeling away any protective layers or shields that you’ve placed over your heart center. Breathe into the space you’re creating and consciously choose to let love come into that space.
2. Anahatasana (Heart Melting Pose): A Gentle Way to Open Your Heart
This beautiful backbend focuses heavily on the heart chakra, as the name of the chakra (anahata) is even in the name of this pose. It works to create gentle space in this center and ground us down to the earth.
1. Come to all fours in Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose). Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
2. Three-dimensionally cinch in around your waistline (as if you’re tightening a corset) to fully activate your core.
3. Keep your hips aligned directly over your knees and walk your hands forward in space.
4. Melt your chest toward the floor (or a block or bolster) and draw your shoulder blades toward each other.
5. Rest your forehead or chin onto a prop or the floor.
6. Surrender your torso down and breathe into the opening. Visualize your heart chakra radiating a glowing light of green in all directions. Tap into this energy as you hold the shape.
3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
This accessible backbend can create beautiful space in your heart as it draws your heart closer to your head, metaphorically connecting these two aspects of your body.
1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat against the floor roughly hips-distance apart. Align your heels underneath your knees.
2. Rest your arms by your sides with your palms facing the floor.
3. Ever so slightly, lift your chest off the mat and draw your shoulder blades together. Keep this and release your chest back down.
4. Press your heels firmly into the ground. Maintain this, and energetically draw your feet apart from each other as if you were trying to stretch the fabric of your mat. Maintain this, and energetically draw your knees toward each other. Keep all of this activation through your pelvic girdle.
5. Three-dimensionally hug in around your waistline.
6. As you inhale, press evenly into your feet and your shoulders and lift your hips off the floor. Reach them toward the sky and stretch your knees toward the back of your mat.
7. Continue to hug your shoulders together and either stay as you are or wiggle one shoulder underneath at a time to interlace your fingers behind your back.
8. Expand your heart forward toward your face and up toward the sky. Experience the soft opening and all that arises from it.
4. Ustrasana (Camel Pose): A Heart Opener With Many Variations
This heart opener can be quite powerful. Working against the force of gravity, this pose requires quite a bit of strength to be able to make the openness and expansion comfortable in your body.
1. Come to a kneeling position. You can either choose to have your toes tucked under behind you (for a shallower backbend) or untucked (for a deeper heart opening).
2. Bring your hands to rest on your sacrum (the triangular-shaped fused bones below your lower back and above your tailbone). Your fingers can point up or down. Find what feels more comfortable for your body.
3. Roll your shoulders down your back and draw your shoulder blades toward each other. Hug your elbows into the midline of your body.
4. Cinch in around your torso and suction your whole core in toward your center.
5. Gently press your hands forward and lean your hips forward.
6. Expand and open your chest, draw your collarbones apart from each other, and puff up your heart forward in space.
7. Either stay exactly as you are, or maintain this puffing up through your chest and slowly start to lean your shoulders back (as if leaning over a big beach ball behind you).
8. Take care not to hinge at your low back. Lengthen your lower spine and imagine continuing your lumbar curve into your thoracic spine as you expand your chest
9. Again, either stay as you are, or release both of your hands simultaneously to catch hold of your ankles.
10. Once you catch hold, immediately reset the rest of your body. Press your hips forward in space, hug your shoulder blades together, and peel your chest open.
11. Pause and breathe into the space you’re creating in your heart in this shape.
5. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
This deeper backbend not only creates strength and mobility in the body but it also deeply opens and expands your heart center.
1. Create the same setup in your legs as Bridge Pose. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat against the floor roughly hips-distance apart. Align your heels underneath your knees. Press your heels firmly into the ground. Maintain this, and energetically draw your feet apart from each other as if you were trying to stretch the fabric of your mat. Maintain this, and energetically draw your knees toward each other. Maintain all of this activation through your pelvic girdle.
2. Reach your hands over your head. Then bend your elbows, placing your palms flat just above your shoulders with your fingers pointing toward your feet.
3. Gently hug your elbows in toward the midline of your body.
4. Three-dimensionally hug in around your waistline.
5. As you inhale, press evenly into your hands and your feet and lift your hips and chest up off the floor.
6. Press down firmly into your hands to work toward straightening your arms.
7. Maintain the activation that you created in your legs and actively hug your upper arm bones in toward your shoulder sockets.
8. Peel your heart open and stretch it forward toward the top of your mat. Hug your shoulder blades toward each other and stabilize your breath.
9. Pause for a moment here and breathe into the deep space that you’re creating in your heart center. Tune into whatever sensations arise from this place.
6. Padma Mudra in Sukhasana (Lotus Seal in Easy Pose)
This simple pose and gesture are said to connect you deeply with your own heart to help you find compassion and self-love.
1. Come to a comfortable seated position. This can be any seat that feels comfortable for your body. You can sit cross-legged; you can sit on your heels; you can sit in a chair. Feel free to sit on a blanket or a block to soften your knees below your hips and to gently tilt your pelvis forward so that you can fully elongate your spine. Find a position that feels easeful and relaxed.
2. Elongate and lengthen your spine: root your sit bones down and stretch the crown of your head up. Soften your shoulders away from your ears.
3. Draw your palms to meet in front of your heart.
4. Keep your pinky fingers and thumbs pressing together and the heels of your hands pressed together and then peel open your other fingers to create a lotus mudra.
5. Close your eyes and gently bow your head in toward your heart.
6. Tune into what you’re feeling and experiencing in your heart space.
7. Take a full, deep breath in, and exhale to bow forward, filled with gratitude.
Let Love In; Open Your Heart
We can open our hearts to create space and vulnerability and openness.
If we give ourselves permission to let love deep into our centers, then we can peel away any layers that may block our hearts. We can radiate from an open center and a full heart.
Use these poses as a starting point to let all the love in, and then continue this beautiful heart opening practice in your meditation practice as well.
You might be surprised by how much openness you’re able to create, and just how much love you will receive in return as a result.
Interested in teaching Restorative Yoga? Study with Judith Hanson Lasater and YogaUOnline – Teaching Restorative Yoga: Nourish, Revitalize and Rebalance Your Spirit.
Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice and teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.