Ahead of Breast Cancer Ireland’s Great Pink Run in the Phoenix Park this Saturday, 27 August 2016, I hosted a Heart Opening Yoga Workshop in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland. With a great turnout and donations coming from those who couldn’t make the class, it was clear to see that many people know someone that has been affected by this disease, be it themselves, a family member or a friend.  Whatever the reason behind their motivation to help raise funding, together we gathered in excess of €700!  Here’s a look at some of the heart opening poses featured in the workshop.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Bhujangasana

The road to building on backbends begins with Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana to strengthen the muscles in the back and improve on the suppleness of the spine. A gentle backbend, Cobra can help build awareness around restrictions in the lower, middle and upper back. Rather than lifting straight into it, visualise extending through the crown of the head before gently raising the upper body. If you feel a pinch in the lower back, raise your hands off the floor for a moment. The upper body will naturally find a comfortable height before gently placing the hands back down. 

Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

Gomukhasana

Beginners can find it difficult to get both sitting bones rested on the floor and maintain a long spine. We sat cross legged for this workshop and concentrated solely on the arms. Tight shoulders can make this pose difficult. One modification is to hold a strap between both hands. The objective is to eventually work the hands towards each other whilst broadening across the chest and keeping the neck long and upright. 

High Lunge, Crescent Variation (Chandrasana)

Chandrasana

For a mixed level class, it is important to offer modifications on the final pose. In this high lunge, options are to keep the back knee on the ground and/or keep the hands on the hips. Here, we ensure the front knee is directly over the front ankle and not extending past or collapsing inwards. Lengthening the tail bone downwards automatically engages the core muscles and protects the lower back as you lift the body up from the hips and gently arch back, relaxing the shoulders and broadening across the chest. The lengthening of the tailbone also helps intensify the stretch on the front of the back thigh. 

Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

Utthita Trikonasana

This pose combines many different elements into one posture. Strengthening the lower limbs, creating openness across the upper body, and improving balance, it also helps to calm the mind as you breathe into the pose and any areas of tightness or tension in the body. To really open across the chest and the upper back in this pose, actively reach down through the lower arm while simultaneously directing energy and reaching strongly through the upper arm. Keep the sides of the body and neck long and extend through the crown of the head. With each inhalation, feel your chest, lungs and heart expand and a sense of space in the upper back. 

Childs Pose (Balasana)

Balasana

An unusual pose to include in a heart opening workshop, however, Childs Pose, or Balasana in Sanskrit, provides the opportunity to breathe into the back of the heart and lungs, an area often neglected. With space restricted in the chest and belly, direct each inhalation into the back of the torso, expanding upwards and outwards. Release a little more deeply into the pose with each exhalation.

 Breast Cancer Ireland’s Great Pink Run is happening Saturday, 27 August 2016