EXPANDING HEART YOGA CHALLENGE

Challenges

Day 1

 

First thing’s first!  Watch the TIPS FOR EXPANDING HEARTS YOGA CHALLENGE video!

https://vimeo.com/311913737

 

Let's talk a bit about the energy center of the heart, anahata chakra.   It is located in the upper chest.  The color associated with it is green and the element is air.  The organs associated with the heart chakra are the lungs, the heart, breasts and the lymphatic system.

 

As you may have guessed, this chakra has to do with love and compassion.  When Anahata chakra is open we give and receive love freely, we are quick to forgive, we accept others and ourselves, we live peaceful and harmonious lives.  

 

When Anahata is closed it can manifest in troubled relationships, c- dependency, jealousy, anger, betrayal, hatred.  Sometimes those with closed heart chakras pull away from relationships altogether because they're afraid of rejection or abandonment.  

 

Physically, a poor functioning heart chakra can show up as breast cancer, lung cancer, heart problems, etc.

 

The heart chakra links our lower chakras which are concerned with our physical, earthly body to our upper chakras which correspond to our spiritual self.  Our heart chakra is a bridge between these two worlds.  It allows us to integrate our higher self with our everyday lives.  

 

For day one we will practice the HEART CHAKRA FLOW. This flow is appropriate for all levels and is a great way to ease into this challenge with emphasis on the energetic body versus jumping right into a super challenging asana practice. We are all coming to this challenge from different places in our asana practice.  Be sure to practice with an elevated level of mindfulness and feel free to modify the practice as you see fit.  If something doesn't feel right, skip it!   

 

Fresh air is key to healing this energy center!  Take deep breaths while in heart opening postures and feel more and more space actually being created in the upper chest region.  

 

Chant the sound YAM!  Wear green!  Have some green gemstones handy such as jade, emerald, malachite.  Rose quartz is also considered healing to this chakra.  Have a great flow!

 

HEART CHAKRA FLOW

https://vimeo.com/166601056

 

Day 2

 

For day 2 we will be practicing FIT FLEXIBLE SPINE.  This is a fun and strong flow that’s one of my favorites on the site! (I have a lot of them).  The beginner option will be BEGIN TO BEND.  I want you guys to focus on lengthening your spine in every back bend!  Think of creating more space between each vertebra, especially in the lumbar spine.  We do this by moving the tailbone in the opposite direction of the head, while simultaneously moving the head in the opposite direction of the tailbone.  Make this lengthening a habit during these easier flows so that we may carry this healthy habit into the more challenging flows later in the challenge.  It will be key to the safety of your back bending practice!  

 

These early days of the challenge are also the perfect time to find your "chill" in your back bends.  What do I mean by this?  Haha--relax into a backbend.  Remember the opposing elements of effort and ease.  Back bending requires effort, no doubt.  But can you find the ease as well?  Balance.  Effort/ease, lengthening/bending.  Relax your face as you breathe into your heart openers.  Soften your jaw.  Take slow, languid breaths.  We cannot force our hearts to open after all, we must surrender in to their supple strength.  

 

Get to it yogis!

 

FIT FLEXIBLE SPINE

https://vimeo.com/370330072

 

BEGIN TO BEND

https://vimeo.com/182323146

 

Day 3

 

I think we're ready for a slightly more challenging practice today.  THE ULTIMATE BENDY SPINE FLOW is what we'll be practicing!  While this is a more advanced flow than the two previous days, it's easily modified.  Have some blocks handy to place under your hands during lunges if needed.  Backbends are presented in progressing stages during this class so feel free to stick with the simpler variations if you're a beginner.  I really want everyone to try this tutorial, no matter your level!  Simply skip the more advanced variations of postures and continue to practice the variation that's appropriate for you.  There is a variation of wheel on the forearms in this class that you may like extra instruction on.  I’ve included a video below detailing how to safely practice this posture if you need it.

 

IF, and I say IF, you are feeling feisty today, you can practice the POST YOGA BACK BENDING FLOW.  This tutorial is only to be practiced immediately after the first one, when you are fully warm and ready to bend!  There is no pressure to practice this additional flow today, so use that elevated level of mindfulness that we discussed in the tips video when making your choice.  

 

Think length throughout the spine!  Stay chill while back bending.  Breathe deep, full breaths.  Find the ease amidst the effort.  Enjoy!

 

FOREARM WHEEL

https://vimeo.com/313100096/676a9f4baf

 

THE ULTIMATE BENDY SPINE FLOW

https://vimeo.com/230747656

 

THE POST YOGA BACK BENDING FLOW

https://vimeo.com/256862672

 

Day 4

 

Today we will be practicing THE EVERYTHING BENDY FLOW!  This class gets deep into those hips and hamstrings as well as back bends. Hip opening is closely related to our ability to get deeper into a backbend.  This class is a bit longer than most, so don’t feel pressured to fit in the POST YOGA BACK BENDING flow if you don’t want to.  

 

Remember, first lengthen your spine, before compressing it in a back bend.  Find that inner chill and relax into your back bends.  Breathe deep and create more space in the upper chest.  We will be slowing it down for some recovery tomorrow, so give it your best effort today!  

 

If you happen to be sore from the previous days practices and you need to recover, feel free to practice SPINAL REHAB (which I will link below) in lieu of THE EVERYTHING BENDY FLOW.  

 

THE EVERYTHING BENDY FLOW

https://vimeo.com/408681045

 

SPINAL REHAB

https://vimeo.com/313257224/201dd43aed

 

Day 5

 

Today we will be restoring and recovering!  SPINAL REHAB will be today's flow.  This is an easy peasy flow that will aim to counter all of that back bending.  Breathe into it and relax!  I've also recorded a short 10 minute HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION for you guys to listen to.  I usually like to meditate right after my practice, but feel free to do the meditation any time you can fit it in.  

 

Relax.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Enjoy.  Today you rest.

 

SPINAL REHAB

https://vimeo.com/313257224/201dd43aed

 

HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION

https://vimeo.com/313308592/3606fba3d3

 

Day 6

 

Did you enjoy your rest day?  Rest days come easily for me as I'm a lazy yogi haha!  But I know that for some of us, taking a day off isn't so easy!  We feel like we have to be constantly pushing ourselves for some reason.  Reminder:  You are spectacular just as you are right now.  Even if you never did another workout, yoga practice, whatever for as long as you live, you are still perfection.  

 

For day 6 it’s SEXY HOLLOW BACK!  Hollow back is a slightly different kind of heart opener.  This handstand up against the wall posture is a terrific way to open the shoulders and upper back. While most of the bend in our back bend happens in the low back, it's ever so important to spend some time focusing on the upper back.  When the thoracic spine is immobile we tend to dump into our lumbar spine and that's no bueno.  Here’s a quick tutorial on various ways to access the upper back.  https://vimeo.com/365391501

 

Hollow back is not for everyone though.  If you are comfortable kicking up into a handstand against the wall, you're ready to play with this posture.  If you are not yet able to kick up into handstand against a wall, you can either skip that small part of the tutorial, or you can practice YOGA FOR ROUNDING SHOULDERS.  However, even if you skip the hollow back part of the class, there are still some fantastic shoulder openers and back bends in the flow to benefit from.  The choice is yours! 

 

You will also have the option to once again practice the POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH after the first class.  I realize this is a lot of mat time for you all and it's totally ok to skip it!  DO NOT FEEL LIKE YOU ARE LESS THAN IF YOU SKIP IT. 

 

Alrighty then!  Have at it yogis!

 

SEXY HOLLOW BACK

https://vimeo.com/422029280

 

YOGA FOR ROUNDING SHOULDERS

https://vimeo.com/356524436

 

POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH

https://vimeo.com/256862672

 

Day 7

 

Hello yogis!   I think you're going to enjoy this fun heart opening vinyasa!  We will be practicing the DEEP HEART OPENING FLOW.  This is an intermediate/advanced flow but pretty easily modified if some of the postures aren't appropriate for you.  Remember, if you ever have any questions on how to modify, please don't hesitate to ask!  If you prefer a more chill/restorative flow for day 7 practice BEGINNER FLOW FOR BACK PAIN.  This is a great class to alleviate any low back tightness.  Make a mindful decision in which practice you choose!  Check in with your body.  Give it what it needs.  For those of you feeling razzmatazzed, follow up your practice with the POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH!  

 

Enjoy yogis! 

 

DEEP HEART OPENING FLOW

https://vimeo.com/157005267

 

BEGINNER FLOW FOR BACK PAIN

https://vimeo.com/128745095

 

POST YOGA BACK BENDING STRETCH

https://vimeo.com/256862672

 

Day 8

 

You’ve made it to the halfway point in the challenge!

 

For day 8 it will be the very poorly named, BEGINNER BACK BEND FLOW.  I say it is poorly named because the last time I practiced it, I found it to be quite challenging!   

 

OPTIONS:  You will of course have the option to practice the POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH afterwards if you're feeling up for it!  If you're feeling sore and need a restorative day, practice SPINE LENGTHENING FOR BACK PAIN.  Don't feel like you have to push to your edge during every practice.  Simply coming to the mat and warming the body is incredibly useful in increasing your flexibility in the long run.

I encourage you all to listen to the HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION as well.  It's quick and you can do it anytime of day.  Try to give it a listen as often as possible during this challenge.  

 

BEGINNER BACK BEND FLOW

https://vimeo.com/138416694

 

POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH

https://vimeo.com/256862672

 

SPINE LENGTHENING FOR BACK PAIN

https://vimeo.com/225445402

 

HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION

https://vimeo.com/313308592/3606fba3d3

 

Day 9

 

I hope you're feeling more open and connected to anahata chakra, as well as a bit sore in a good way 😉

 

For day 9 we will be doing two flows.  SHORT SWEET WARM UP, followed by the POST YOGA BACK BENDING STRETCH.  These are both short videos so you should have time to fit them in.  I really like to be as warm as possible when I practice the POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH, so I drank some hot tea before practicing and turned on my two space heaters full blast.  It really makes a HUGE difference in how deep I'm able to back bend comfortably. 

OPTIONS:  If you're feeling ultra sore or need a restorative practice for any reason whatsoever, practice the ALL THINGS LUNAR FLOW.  This is one of my favorite flows and includes some gentle back bends with an all around ultra chill/slow-it-down vibe.  

 

SHORT SWEET WARM UP

https://vimeo.com/269689000

 

POST YOGA BACK BENDING STRETCH

https://vimeo.com/256862672

 

ALL THINGS LUNAR

https://vimeo.com/279197075

 

Day 10

 

Today, we restore our bodies with a couple of short and gentle flows.  Recovery is just as important as working at our edge when it comes to increasing our range of motion.  If we push too hard without recovering properly it ultimately hinders our progress.  So rest.

 

We will practice NECK, SHOULDERS AND UPPER BACK followed by SPINE LENGTHENING FOR BACK PAIN.   Feel free to do the HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION as well.  I'm also attaching a link to some music on youtube keyed to the heart chakra.  I find it's nice to fall asleep to.  

 

NECK SHOULDERS AND UPPER BACK

https://vimeo.com/160513389

 

SPINE LENGTHENING FOR BACK PAIN

https://vimeo.com/225445402

 

HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION

https://vimeo.com/313308592/3606fba3d3

 

HEART CHAKRA MUSIC

https://youtu.be/q1Ng7FgDsNQ

 

Day 11

 

Welcome to day 11 yogis!  Just a few days left of this challenge and I feel like there's so much more I want to cover!  We will be practicing the YOGA FOR TIGHT QUADS, followed by THE POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH.  

 

Having open quads allow us to back bend more comfortably and more deeply.  When our quads are tight they can hinder the openness of our hips and we already know that if the hips are tight, the spine has to pick up the slack in back bending.  Notice if back bending feels any different after this flow. 

 

As always, if you need a rest day, take one.  And by rest day, I obviously mean practice a restorative flow 😉  Choose any restorative flow you like!  I'll also link the HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION and some music to listen to you at your leisure.  

 

Happy heart opening yogis!

 

YOGA FOR TIGHT QUADS

https://vimeo.com/151732222

 

POST YOGA BACK BEND STRETCH

https://vimeo.com/256862672

 

HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION

https://vimeo.com/313308592/3606fba3d3

 

HEART CHAKRA HEALING MEDITATION MUSIC

https://youtu.be/q1Ng7FgDsNQ

 

Day 12

 

Today we will be tuning into our sensual sides with BRINGING SEXY BACK (BENDS).  Yes, I'm very proud of the clever title LOL.  This is a 30 minute sexy back bending flow in which we will slither around on and off our mat as well as play with some fun back bending variations using your furniture as a prop. I encourage you to follow it up with the POST YOGA BACK BENDING STRETCH if you're feeling up for it.  If you need more of a restorative, go for the SPINAL REHAB, either alone or after BRINGING SEXY BACK (BENDS).  I'll also attach the HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION and some juicy heart chakra music.  Enjoy yogis!

 

BRINGING SEXY BACK (BENDS)

https://vimeo.com/314629869/3645554d79

 

POST YOGA BACK BENDING STRETCH

https://vimeo.com/256862672

 

SPINAL REHAB

https://vimeo.com/313257224/201dd43aed

 

HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION

https://vimeo.com/313308592/3606fba3d3

 

HEART CHAKRA MUSIC

https://youtu.be/q1Ng7FgDsNQ

 

Day 13

 

For day 13 we will be doing a more restorative type of practice.  When we practice a lot of back bends, it can create a tightness in the glutes or lower back.  This can sometimes result in low back pain. Today's practice, BYE BYE SCIATICA, will focus on stretching out the outer hips and glutes, bringing relief to any residual low back tension.  If you have a foam roller, have it handy!  They are the single best way to massage out that tushie muscle--you know, shy of getting an actual massage!  Restorative practices are of great importance when we push our bodies in any way.  Whether we are working to increase flexibility or building muscle by pumping iron in the gym, we need to take care of our bodies so that we can continue our physical practices for years to come without injury.  When we restore and release muscle tension, we move towards increasing flexibility.  

 

Have your blocks, a strap and a foam roller handy if you have one!  Enjoy!

 

BYE BYE SCIATICA

https://vimeo.com/289957649

 

HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION

https://vimeo.com/313308592/3606fba3d3

 

Day 14

 

The final day is upon us! 

 

Let's get to it!  We will be closing out this challenge the same way we began it--with the HEART CHAKRA FLOW.  We've had many days where our practices have focused on the more physical aspects of heart opening, but the true purpose of this practice is to create more space, more openness, more flowing energy in our heart center so that we may take that free flowing love out into the world and make a better place for everyone.  So really tune in to your internal experience in today's practice.  Let your eyes close in asanas where you're comfortable.  Focus on the breath.  See that healing green light.  Find a little smile on your lips as you practice.  You've made it through the challenge.  You've done enough.  To whatever degree you participated, it was exactly perfect.  You are perfect just as you are.  Enjoy, my loves!  

 

HEART CHAKRA FLOW

https://vimeo.com/166601056

 

HEART CHAKRA MEDITATION

https://vimeo.com/313308592/3606fba3d3