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Six Ways to release chest tightness (and open our heart chakra)

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Sometimes our ribcage acts as “the prison to our heart”.

The body always shows us something about our emotional aspects. Is our chest tight due to stress or anxiety or trapped emotions? Many people can’t open their chest properly when breathing so I want to share a few practices that may help us free up that space in ourselves.

First, let’s take a second to think…

Why would we want to loosen up that part of our body or selves?

Personality: Could it make us more relaxed and open? Could it increase our levels of empathy? Could it be that it can help us relate more genuinely with others? Could it make us become more empowered to do what we’ve been afraid to do? I’d say all the above.

Health: It is a good idea to stimulate and massage the heart or chest areas as it can help the functioning of the thymus gland. The thymus gland produces T-cells, which are anti-cancer agents, and also have immune system boosting effects.

Intelligence: The heart has 12 nervous plexus and even its own “brain”. This is a network of thousands of neurons called ‘the intracardiac nervous system’. Check out “heart intelligence” and the science-based work of the Heart Math Institute, it's fascinating.

Ok, without further adieus…

Here are a few ways we could explore unlocking the tensions in our chest and heart center:

1/ Breathwork:

Practicing Yogic breathing and breathwork can help us loosen up our heart space by engaging in chest breathing. We can let go or clarify the tensions that are making our heart space tight.

2/ Yoga Asana:

Sometimes it is a good idea to stretch and practice heart-opening Yoga Asanas. The Camel pose, Cobra pose, or Bow pose are great asanas for this purpose. Even a simple “power pose” can offer small shifts in our heart area.

Cobra pose for opening the chest (and lower back tightness relief)

3/ Pranayama:

The Humming Bee Breath provides a subtle internal massage that can be felt in the inner cavities of the head and chest. These subtle vibrations offer tension relief in the heart, vagus nerve, and other internal organs. The Kundalini Tantra by Swami Satniananda recommends this practice to activate the heart chakra.

Humming bee breathing pranayama — image: Bihar School of Yoga

Here is a guided micro practice of the Humming Bee Breath

4/ Meditation:

There are also chakra meditations focusing on Anahata, the heart energy center. We can practice our regular breath meditation, this time visualizing, and feeling that we are breathing through the heart. Inhale through the front-middle of the chest into the heart, then exhale from the back-middle of the spine. Take a moment to feel the heart space filled with air/ prana.

5/ Prayer:

This brings to mind that famous picture of Jesus, showing his heart open, and radiant — as though pointing the way. Matthew 6:6 says: When you pray, go into your inner room…”. Yogis like Yogananda explain that this inner room is the 3rd Eye — Anja Chakra, and to focus in the brow center. However, I love the idea of considering our heart space that inner room : )

6/ Coaching:

The above practices can also help us speak from the heart, which is another way of freeing that energy center. We can also liberate stuck energy through speech. Engaging in holistic coaching conversations or other kinds of talking therapies can help us “get stuff off our chest”. I find this a useful process, especially when combined with somatic or body practices.

Hope that helps! Would you add anything to the list? Is there something you’d like me to explain more deeply?

Best, Rio.

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