By the time February rolls around, we're often deep into the trademark "winter hunch," bracing against the chill. We're compounded with hunching over our desks at work, laptops at home, and smart phones pretty much everywhere, which makes even the most upright among us start to feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Of course modern technology isn't the only thing to blame. Slouching is also linked with feeling sad, fearful, powerless, and depressed. It's intuitive — when we feel scared or helpless, we hunch. But slumping isn't just an emotional symptom. "Posture doesn't just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them," Harvard professor Amy Cuddy wrote in the New York Times.
Hunching can also be a subconscious attempt to protect a very tender part of ourselves — our hearts. And yet, it can also have harmful physical effects. Anatomically, the chest muscles can shorten and tighten, while the upper thoracic spine rounds into a chronic slump.
I have five favorite yoga poses to therapeutically counteract winter hunch, stretch the pectorals, and open the heart. They not only change your perspective — literally and figuratively as you start to look up — but also help you feel braver, stronger, and more empowered. As you mobilize the spine and stretch the muscles around your heart, you'll also create capacity for breathing more deeply, and an openness for fresh, new energy to flow in.
Easy and accessible to anyone, these poses are a breeze even if you've never done yoga before. Most importantly, we're going to work the entire 360-degrees around the heart — it's not just a front-body entity.