Chest Openers for Early Fall

It’s starting to look like Fall.  A few leaves here and there, a different kind of light. In Toronto the seasons change so quickly it’s easy to miss it. I love the shoulder seasons because I love evolution. I like to take my change at a constant, subtle pace. Like a maple tree.

Life doesn’t work like that. Yesterday we put an offer on a home. This is not a gradual change. I didn’t know that when you sign the offer, it means you’re good for it. You don’t sign something else later that says you really mean it this time. If the offer is accepted, it’s final. On closing date, you better hand over the full purchase price or else you’ll be hearing from the seller’s lawyer.

After the stress of the offer and a long day of spreadsheet math, today was a day for chest openers. Your chest can hold a lot of stress, through your back, neck and shoulders. There’s a reason they call it a weight on your shoulders. There’s a physical reality to that feeling of mental burden. When I’m doing chest openers, I’m looking for three things:

1. A lifting, not a crunching. Similar to back bending, you want to focus on lifting your sternum, not crunching your spine. You want to imagine a cord attached to the centre of your chest that is suspending you from the sky.

Yoga should create space without creating tension.

2. An engaged core. I’m big on core engagement. I engage my core a lot – walking around, sitting on the streetcar, in pretty much every active yoga posture. When your opening up the front of your body, you want to make sure to engage through the core in order to protect your back from over-extending.

3. A feeling of lightness and freedom. Your chest houses your heart. And your heart is responsible for pumping blood through your body. It’s really the heart of the matter, the matter being your alive-ness, your vitality.

How we repeatedly hold our bodies explains a lot about how we feel about ourselves and the world. Your shoulders and arms are in a great location to protect your body and especially your heart and other organs, and often we hold them close to us, even hunched forward. By continuously hunching in a protective way, you are allowing your body to tell your brain that you are uncomfortable, and that the world is not safe.

When you open your chest your body tells your brain that you are comfortable, weightless and free.

Here are my favourite chest openers, and they’re simple:

1. Standing back bend, hands on lower back.

Here’s how:

Stand up straight, feet hip width apart, weight distributed evenly through both feet.

Place palms on lower back, with fingers pointing down. Press hands into lower back, releasing shoulders.

Engage core. Lift your chest toward the ceiling and allow your head to gently roll back. Look at the top of the opposite wall or the ceiling.

Relax and breathe into your chest. 10 inhales and exhales.

2. Fish.

Here’s how:

Lie on your back and snuggle your straight arms in close to your body, palms down.

Point your toes and engage your core as you lift your chest toward the sky, bending your elbows.

Take the weight of your upper body in your elbows and allow your head to gently roll back.

You may place the top of your head on the floor, but keep all of your weight in your elbows (not your head).

Relax and breathe into your chest. 10 inhales and exhales.

You can alternate these great chest openers as many times as you like. I like to use mantras in my practice. Something like this:

“I am safe and comfortable to be me. I am light and free.” Say this to yourself with every exhale.

By the way, the part about being safe also lines up with Louise Hay’s suggested mantra for healing skin problems (for anyone out there on that journey with me).

Getting back to the house, we didn’t get it. Someone else put in an offer for 30% over the asking price. Welcome to Toronto real estate. If you want an unvarnished negative opinion, read this blog.

If you’re looking for a more balanced view, do the chest openers. They’re good for your heart, your body, your mind and your evolution. And they’re good for Fall.

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