Being vulnerable is never easy. Our natural tendency is to be closed off and to shield our hearts. There’s a reason people tend to slump their shoulders forward – it’s safer. But the reality is that opening your heart – and your entire front body– allows so much more love into your life.
Two amazing postures to open your heart and hips are bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) and wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana). The asanas have a long list of similar benefits – they open the hips and front body, strengthen the legs, calm the mind, improve digestion and more. The difference, though, is how deep the posture goes. Bridge is a great way to set yourself up for wheel.
Getting Into Bridge
Start lying on your back. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor, hip-width apart and as close to your butt as is comfortable. Extend your arms along your sides.
Inhale deeply and as you exhale,press down with your feet and lift your hips toward the sky. On the next inhale, feel your chest rise and move toward your chin, as you press your shoulders against the earth. Next,start moving your shoulders under your body so you can inch your hands towards each other until they can clasp under your hips.
Regardless of whether your hands can reach, as you hold this posture, think about moving your hips and your heart in opposite directions. Breathe deep into the back body while expanding your front body.
Extend Into Wheel
Once you’re confident in bridge, it’s time to take on wheel. Start the same way you started bridge – on your back with your knees bent and feet planted. Instead of keeping your arms by your side, extend them over your head then bend your elbows so you can place your hands near your shoulders.
Inhale and on the exhale press down with your hands and lift your upper body and place the top of your head on the mat. On the next inhale, move into the full expression of the pose by pressing down with your hands and feet and lifting your hips and chest toward the sky. Like in bridge, feel your hips moving forward and your heart moving toward you chin, opening the entire front body.
Ease your way out of the posture by ducking your chin toward your chest and slowly lowering yourself to the mat one vertebra at a time.
Note: If you suffer from any back problems, listen to your body and do only what you can without pain.
Additionally, it may not seem like it, but these postures may surprise you in the way they affect you emotionally. We carry a host of emotions in our hips and heart, and opening the front body will challenge you to release them.
The amazing thing, though, is the freedom you’ll feel when you let those emotions go, and that’s why I encourage you to include bridge or wheel in every practice you do.