On and Off the Mat: 5 Yoga Poses that Lift Your Gaze to Brighter Skies
For the past year, we’ve been living inside of bubbles. Restricted, literally and figuratively, we’ve been told to limit our interactions and be separate. The physical effect of this is that we’ve curled in on ourselves, pill bug-style, showing the world our brittle shell while protecting our vulnerable innards. Long days communicating through screens have contributed to a secondary epidemic of rounded backs and concave chests.
Now that we can engage more fully with the world outside our windows, let’s uncurl our spines, throw our shoulders back, and open our hearts. When we train ourselves to look up instead of down, we see the bigger picture, soak in the light, and feel more inspired and connected.
In the following postures, we’ll lift our gazes to lift our moods. You may be familiar with these poses but we hope to give you a new way of experiencing them with alignment tips intended to maximize the expansion of your heart so you head lifts naturally.
1. Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Come to stand at the front of your mat with your arms at your sides and your feet about hips’ distance apart for stability. On an inhalation of breath, sweep your arms out wide to either side as you bring your hands overhead. Keep your palms facing each other about shoulders’ distance apart. Activate your fingers, slide your shoulders down your back, and lift your gaze to your fingers.
Warrior I is often taught with the palms pressed together overhead, but keeping the palms separated allows more room for the shoulders to move away from your ears as you anchor your shoulder blades on your back. The stability of your foundation allows your heart to soar so widen your feet to either side of your mat as necessary.
3. Reverse Warrior
The act of arcing your front arm toward the sky opens your side body and makes room for your heart to expand. Imagine the sun touching your face and your sternum as you turn them upwards. As in Warrior I, make sure you have a nice, stable base to rise from by rooting down through the soles of your feet.
4. Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
In Extended Side Angle, you can use the leverage that comes from anchoring your bottom arm to really rotate your chest open. Placing your forearm on the shelf created by your front thigh allows most people more room to keep the heart facing toward the ceiling instead of the floor.
Upward facing may be right in the name, but you want to make sure your neck and shoulders have plenty of room before you turn your gaze to the sky. Align your wrist directly under your shoulders, especially if you’re transitioning from Chaturanga because that tends to bring your shoulders forward of your wrists. Press into your palms to move your shoulders away from your ears. Bending your elbows slightly helps make more room for your heart to bloom forward. Lift and tilt your head gently back to take your gaze upwards toward the horizon.