Open-hearted, bare-breasted.. and hunch-backed?
Just when I thought working in an office was going to be the end of my back, cue babies.
Motherhood is a practice of living from the centre of one’s heart, right? Yet so much of modern-day motherhood involves a curling of the shoulders and neck (carrying our baby, feeding, changing, holding a phone to film the deliciousness of their cheeks or SOS’ing our bff).
These movements are slowly and subtly collapsing our chest, dulling our heart and restricting our breath, which is influencing not only our posture but our energy and confidence, just as it did to the sweet hunchback, Quasimodo.
So as an act of protest I’ve handpicked a collection of asanas that focus on expanding the heart centre through chest openers, spine lengthening movements and shoulder stretches.
Now, thanks to a burst of relaxin', you’ll have newfound flexibility, so stick to short holds & only extend to 80% of your capacity during this flow even though I know you really, really want to flaunt it.
Let’s start with a deep breath…
Tadasana Variation with Strap
Take a strap, towel, or t-shirt in both hands, holding it wide. Stand strong, chest puffed like a proud native chief, with arms stretched out in front of you, pulling the strap tight.
Inhale, raise your arms slowly overhead.
Exhale, bring your hands behind you (if this movement isn’t accessible or you find you need to bend your elbows to move your arms behind you, I got you, just widen your grip on the strap).
Inhale, raise your arms overhead.
Exhale, slowly bring your hands in front of you.
Follow your breath as you repeat.
Tadasana Gomukhasana | Standing Open Cow Face with Strap
Take a strap, towel, or t-shirt in one hand. Sweep the arm holding the strap overhead as if you were going to scratch your upper back between your shoulder blades.
Reach your other arm behind you, bending the elbow and reaching up to grab the strap hanging from your other hand.
Hold as you inhale and exhale a few times, then release your arms and switch sides.
Garudasana Variation | Eagle Arms
Ok, so this one can feel a little like a game of Twister, but let’s give it a go.
Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor. Cross your arms in front of you so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the nook of the left and raise your elbows. Then rotate the backs of your hands to be facing each other.
Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation | Half Dog on Wall
Place your hands on a wall shoulder-width distance apart, with your wrists in line with your elbows.
Straighten your arms and walk backwards until your heels are under your hips, then lower your head between your upper arms. You should resemble a right angle right about now.
Keep actively pressing your hands into the wall, breathing deeply.
Add a slow peddle to the feet by making a bend to one knee at a time to stretch the hamstring.
For a lighter stretch, consider placing your hands on the wall with your wrists in line with your ears, then walk backwards to create an obtuse angle.
Marjaryasana Bitilasana | Cat Cow
Now, I have a bone to pick with you, don’t practice this asana if you have a separation of your abdominal muscles or are still healing from a recent belly birth. Please. When done in full, this pose adds stress on the midline.
Start on your hands and knees, making sure your knees are in line with your hips, and your wrists, elbows and shoulders stack on top of each other.
As you exhale, round your spine towards the ceiling, keeping your shoulders and knees in position.
As you inhale, lift your chest towards the ceiling, broaden the collarbones, lift your sitting bones and allow your belly to sink towards the floor. Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead.
Follow your breath as you repeat this flow.
Anahatasana | Melting Heart
Begin on all fours and stretch your hands forward, lowering your chest and head toward the ground. Remember to keep those hips right above your knees.
Sink into the pose and breathe deeply.
Add a thread the needle arm variation for some added flavour.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana | Bridge
Lay on your back, knees bent and heels stacked directly below your knees at hip-width apart.
Press the floor away with your feet, and lift hips upward. Don’t push your hips too far! We’re here for a chest opening, not a booty blast.
Intertwine fingers under your back, drawing shoulder blades downward and broaden your collarbones.
Hold as you inhale and exhale, then release back to the floor.
Matsyasana | Supported Fish
Lay on your back to start, then place your hands on the floor with bent elbows. Check your shoulders and elbows are aligned. Take a deep inhale and puff your chest out like a proud native chief once again.
Transform this engaging asana into a gentle backbend by adding a block (or stack of books) under the base of your head and another supporting your upper back between your shoulder blades.
Cover the blocks with a blanket or pillow, and lay back down, opening your arms wide.
Rest here, feeling your chest rise and fall as you breathe.
If you’ve got the hang of those and want to shake it up a little more try burning incenses or praying during a practice for a more spiritual touch, eating a couple of lactation cookies afterwards to further enhance milk supply or an Ayurvedic breast massage to help regulate lymph flow and give you a cheeky hit of natural oxytocin.
A little goes a long way.
Author: Tyler Underwood
Birth Coach & Yoga Teacher