Yoga Heart-opening Poses

Psychosocial stressors encountered during daily life, such as deadlines at work, long, traffic-laden commutes, marital stress, and chronic anxiety and depression are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Chronic stress puts the sympathetic nervous system into constant overdrive, which can lead to inflammation and high blood pressure. Some amount of stress in everyday life cannot be avoided, but it certainly can be managed, and yoga has
been shown to mitigate the body’s stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system through deep breathing and relaxation. 1 In a 2014 review of clinical research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers found that yoga had a significantly positive impact on cardiometabolic risk factors, compared to no exercise at all. The researchers reported that yoga appeared to decrease total cholesterol and blood pressure in those individuals who practiced it, compared to control groups in the reviewed studies. 2 In honor of yoga’s heart-healthy benefits, we’ve compiled a few heart-opening poses to encourage flexibility and relaxation.



Benefits: Opens the hips, chest and lungs; improves focus, balance, and stability; encourages good circulation; stretches the arms, legs, shoulders, neck, belly, groin, and ankles

Assume Warrior 1 position by starting in a wide-leg stance. Turn the right foot out 90 degrees and turn the left foot and leg in 45 degrees. Turn your chest towards your right foot and square your hips by pressing your left hip forward. Inhale as you raise your arms above your head, then exhale as you bend the left knee at a 90-degree angle and sink down into the right thigh. Your left knee should be directly over your left ankle. To create the heart-opening portion of this pose, place the hands on the hips and lean back, tilting the head back and looking up. For a slightly more advanced version, rest your hands on your back hamstring as you lean back.3


(Utkata Konasana)

Benefits: Stretches
the hips, groin, and chest; tones and strengthens the core muscles; strengthens the quadriceps and inner thigh muscles; heats the body and increases circulation

Start in a wide standing stance. Turn your toes out and your heels in, so your feet are about a 45-degree angle. Bend your knees in the same direction as your toes and lower your hips down toward the height of your knees. Engage the muscles in your core and draw your tailbone in the direction of the floor. Keep your spine long and your muscles engaged. Rest the right elbow on the right upper thigh as you reach the left hand around your back, grabbing the top of the right thigh to create a slight twist. Avoid collapsing in the chest, and keep it lifted as you twist. Release after 30 seconds.4


(Urdhva mukha svanasana)

Benefits: Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists; stimulates the abdominal organs; improves posture by stretching the anterior spine and strengthening the posterior spine; stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders, and abdomen

Start by laying on your stomach on the floor. Place the hands along the sides of the body with the palms flat against the floor and the fingers pointing forward and are in line with the shoulders. Keep the elbows close to the body. Your feet should be hip width apart with the toes tucked under. Inhale as you press the palms into the floor and press the body off the floor slightly. Drag the hips forward and roll forward over the toes so the tops of the feet are resting on the floor. Straighten the arms and lift the chest forward as you engage the thigh muscles to lift the knees off of the floor. The weight of the body rests on the hands and the tops of the feet. Roll the shoulders down and back as you tilt your head back and gently look up. Exhale and come back down onto the legs.3


(Prasarita padottanasana)

Benefits: stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips; strengthens the feet, ankles, and legs; builds awareness of how to protect your lower back; lowers the head and heart below the hips, creating a calming sensation

Start in a wide leg standing stance. Spread your feet evenly across the balls and heels of your feet. Interlace the fingers together behind the back, with the heels and palms of your hands together. Inhale as you squeeze the shoulder blades together, roll open the chest, tuck your tailbone, and lengthen your spine. Upon exhaling, hinge at the hips and send your tailbone back and up as you fold your upper body forward. Roll your shoulders away from your ears as you squeeze your shoulder blades together toward the spine and bring your fingers towards the floor. Release after 30 seconds to one minute.3

Latest Recipes

Sign up for NHR’s FREE E-Newsletter!

          • Receive notifications when a new issue of NHR is available
          • Get free recipes, tips on healthy living, and the latest health news

Subscribe to NHR Print for only $18 a year!

Get unlimited access to content plus receive 6 eye-appealing, information-packed print issues of NHR delivered to your mailbox.