Your chest is composed of three muscles.
The pectoralis major, pectoralis minor and the serratus anterior. Each vital to your upper body function and mobility. The pectoral major helps flex your shoulder joint and moves your arm toward and across your body, while the pectoralis minor helps to pull your shoulder forward and down. Although the serratus anterior is not technically apart of your chest, it attaches the pectorals to your ribs and helps move your scapula forward and upward.
This group of muscles works together with your back and shoulders to move your arms and head-- aiding you in actions such as pushing, looking up or to the side, throwing a ball, or raising your hand. Breathing, a key component of your yoga practice, not to mention a vital body function, is also controlled by this grouping.
This three pose sequence will guide you into the proper alignment to strengthen and open your chest. As you start to move today, notice how your back (primarily your latissimus dorsi and trapezius) works with your chest to create space.
As always, treat yourself with kindness when practicing this sequence. Honor your bodies limitations, mindfully approach each movement with care, and support all of your movements with an engaged core. Wheather you are a beginner or an expert, it is always important to protect your body from injury.
Alright, let's move :)
Start in standing with your feet directly underneath your hips. You can measure this distance by placing your fists next to each other on the ground in between your feet.
- Root your weight equally in the center of your heels and the ball mounds of your feet.
- Flex your toes into the floor and press into the outer edge of your entire foot to lift your inner arches off the mat and move your ankle into proper alignment.
- Firm up your thighs and glutes as well as your low belly and upper abs – think of legs and lower torso as an anchor to support your chest.
- Reach up through the sides of your body.
- Draw your ribs back so that they stack over your hips.
- Send your arms out to a T shape and then bend your wrist up to create goal post shape with your upper body.
- Reach up through the crown of your head.
- For a modification: place your hands at the base of the back of your pelvis. Fingers point downward; elbows point back. Relax your shoulders away from your ears.
- On an inhale, reach the muscle of your chest up towards the sky as you slide your shoulder blades together – creating a shelf for your upper chest.
- On an exhale, press your heart upwards, as though it was floating to the ceiling. Feel your shoulders slide closer together as they poke your chest a little closer to the sky.
- Check in – your sternum is long, your belly is still firm, and your legs are engaged.
Softly play with the action of your shoulders pressing your heart upwards as you maintain a steady breath for one minute. Remeber to gentle roll up on an inhale with a supported core when you are finished. When you are ready, take it down to the ground and set up for plank pose.
Start on all fours. Evenly center your weight on the four corners of your palms. Spread out through the center of your hand. Gently extend your fingertips, and then press your finger pads into the mat. Spread your toes and press down into the mat.
- Press down into your hands to active your chest.
- Slightly lift your upper back, as though you are pulling your chest away from the floor with your back muscles.
- Press into the mounds of your feet and draw your thighs up. Flex your quads. Engage your glutes.
- Reach your tailbone towards your heels( at a slight angle downward towards the floor).
- Open your chest and broaden your shoulders.
- Press into your shoulder blades.
- Squeeze your biceps and triceps.
- Stretch your chest down and forward towards the top of your mat.
- Relax your neck and reach forward with your head.
- Firm this entire shape.
Don't forget to breathe here :) maintain a steady breath and firm body as you hold this pose for 1 minute. When you are ready lower down to the ground on an exhale. take a quick break. Then mindfully come back to all fours for upward facing dog.
Upward Facing Dog
It very important that you use your hands pressing into the floor and an engaged tummy when practicing this pose. If you start to feel ANY tension in your low back repeate plank pose.
- Start on all fours with knees directly below your hips.
- Center your weight on the four corners of your palm spreading through the center of your hand.
- Inhale, drill the tops of your feet evenly into the mat as you flex your quads to lift your knees off the mat.
- Exhale engage your core and reach your tailbone towards your heels.
- Keep your elbows in by your side, your wrists directly below your shoulders.
- Push your shoulder down and back. Elongate your neck as you gaze slightly upward.
- As you hover, press through your palms to lift the top of your chest.
- Remeber, your arms are fully extended and you are only creating an arch in your upper torso(similar to the gentle backbend).
- Dig the tops of your feet into the mat to turn on the muscles in your legs.
- Stretch up through the sides of your waist.
- Relax your neck no reach through the crown of your head.
Stay here for one minute. Then gently lower down to the mat by bending your elbows.
Great work! Now it's time to soak up all the benefits of your open chest with a one minute guided savasana!
Peace, love, and an open chests!