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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Try These Chest-Opening Yoga Poses for Better Posture

Try These Chest-Opening Yoga Poses for Better Posture

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds


DATE: 2022-12-13

Yoga poses, or asanas, developed as part of a spiritual practice. Today, many people use them as part of a fitness routine. The poses that open up the chest are particularly useful for modern practitioners who spend so much time hunched over screens. 

Learn more about the chest-opening asanas, why you should incorporate them as part of your regular routine, and some of the best poses for beginners to advanced yoga practitioners. 

Benefits of Chest-Opening Yoga Poses

Everyone can benefit from chest-opening poses. These uplifting, energizing asanas can help you improve your posture, stretch your spine, and find some emotional release at the end of a difficult day. 

Counteract the Desk Hunch

Many people spend hours every day hunched over a desk, computer, or phone. No matter how well you set up your desk and try to focus on not hunching and rounding your shoulders, you probably do. 

Chest-opening poses are the opposite of the desk hunch: they open the chest, expand the shoulders back, lift the rib cage, and lengthen the thorax, the part of the upper abdomen that contains the heart and lungs. You can counteract some of the effects of sitting and bending forward all day by doing chest-opening stretches and exercises. 

Here are more asanas that will help combat the negative effects of a desk job. 

Improve Posture

Ultimately, hours of desk sitting and bending over a phone take a toll on posture. While it might seem like the least of your worries, poor posture can contribute to a number of health issues: neck pain, shoulder pain, lower back pain, and even arthritis. (1) Chest-opening poses help you train your shoulders, back, and neck for better posture.

Chest-Opening Yoga Poses Also Stretch the Spine

Another consequence of sitting so much throughout the day is that the spine becomes compressed. Chest openers, by nature, require you to bend the spine back. In addition to opening up the chest, you’ll enjoy a great spine and back stretch to relieve pain, stiffness, and fatigue. 

Emotional and Spiritual Benefits

As a personal trainer, you’re interested largely in the physical, but many people practice yoga to get spiritual as well as fitness benefits. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice, and the asanas are just a small part of it. 

The aspect of yoga that most people practice today is more than just movement and muscle strength. It aims to connect the mind and body, which for many can be a positive spiritual experience. By focusing on breath and the body, your mind is distracted from worries and stress. 

Various poses in yoga trigger different feelings. Chest-openers tend to give people an emotional release. They stimulate the heart chakra (Anahata), which is located in the center of the chest. If you’re holding on to anger, stress, or anxiety, these poses might help you feel better. They can also energize you during a daytime slump. These emotional benefits of yoga poses are not well studied, but many people experience them. 

Another benefit of most yoga poses is that they use body weight to strengthen muscles. Try these poses if your focus is getting stronger. 

The Best Chest-Opening Poses for Beginners

You don’t have to spend hours in the yoga studio or be an advanced student to benefit from specific asanas. Add just one or two of these heart openers to your daily routine to get the benefits. 

Simple Heart Opener

This is the easiest place to start. It’s one you can do even on days when you have little extra energy to spare. Lie on a mat with a folded towel or bolster under your upper middle back. It should line up with the bottom of your shoulder blades. Lie back with your arms raised over your head and legs relaxed, and enjoy. 

Cat Cow

This is a great pose with a little more movement that both opens the chest and lengthens and stretches the spine. Start on all fours on the mat. Your knees should be under your hips and your hands under your shoulders, arms straight at the elbows. This is tabletop position. 

From tabletop, let your belly drop toward the floor as your back bends inward and your head and chest lift up. This is the chest-opening position. Hold it for a breath and then curl and lift your spine up as your head, shoulders, and chest drop down. This lengthens the spine. Alternate between cat and cow to stretch and open up the chest and spine. 

Sphinx Pose

Sphinx is a great place to start for a slightly more active move. Lying on your chest on a mat, place your forearms and palms face down on the mat. Your elbows should be right under your shoulders. Lift your chest up without letting your elbows leave the mat. As your chest opens up, roll your shoulders back and down. Look straight ahead. 

Cobra Pose

When Sphinx becomes easy, try cobra pose. Both are good foundations for more complicated asanas, so it’s worth spending some time to perfect them while also getting the benefits of opening the chest. In this pose, you’ll lift more of your chest and abdomen off the mat. 

Instead of placing your elbows under your shoulders, rest your hands there, palms down. Push up through your hands and lift your chest. Hold the pose while rolling your shoulders down and back. 

More Challenging Chest-Openers

With more flexibility and upper body strength, you or your clients can move on to more challenging poses to open the chest. 

Upward Facing Dog

You can move on from cobra pose to upward facing dog. This is a common component in sun salutations, but there’s no need to rush it. Upward facing dog is a great chest-opener. Hold it as long as you need. From cobra, push your arms up until the elbows straighten. Lift your legs until only your hands and the tops of your feet touch the mat. Focus on rolling your arms out and shoulders down and back. 

Camel Pose

With more flexibility across the chest, you should be able to do camel pose. Kneel on your mat with your knees right under your hips and shins pressed into the floor. Place your hands on your hips as you draw your shoulder blades back and together. Lift your head and bend backward, moving your hands down toward your calves. If you can, work your hands all the way to the feet. 

Bow Pose

Bow pose is a big chest-opener that also stretches the hip flexor muscles and quads. On your stomach on a mat, bend your knees, bringing your heels close to your bottom. Your knees should be about hip-width apart. Reach your arms back and grasp your ankles. 

Lift your heels up as your thighs lift off the mat and your chest and head also raise. Only your abdomen should still be touching the mat. If you’re lacking a little flexibility to fully do this pose, attach a strap to your ankles that you can grasp with your hand and work toward holding your ankles directly. 

Wheel Pose

This is an advanced yoga posture that requires balance and a lot of strength. If you can do it, you’ll find it invigorating. Lying on your back on a mat, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Reach your arms behind you, placing your palms flat on the mat, fingers pointing toward your head. 

Pushing your hands and feet into the mat, lift your hips up first, followed by your head as you straighten your arms. In full wheel pose, your legs will still be bent at the knee, but your arms are straight or nearly straight. 

If you are a personal trainer, you probably spend a lot less time bent over a desk than your clients. Help them get the chest-opening, energizing release of these yoga poses. Try adding a few at the end of the workout to ensure they have good form and can practice them at home or in the office. 

ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer – Self-Guided Study Program is a great place to start your fitness career. With this foundation, you can add specialty certifications and services, including yoga. ISSA’s Yoga Instructor course combines the best of in-demand yoga applications with scientifically proven practices to help your clients achieve their wellness goals.

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ISSA | Yoga Fundamentals

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  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2021, December 29). The health effects of poor posture. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved November 16, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/health-effects-of-poor-posture/

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