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Yoga Poses That Open Up Your Chest

Standing Back Arch

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  • Stand with feet no wider than hip-width apart.
  • Clasp hands behind the sacrum, the flesh of palms together if possible.
  • Gently press palms down and slightly away as you reach shoulder blades toward one another and open chest.
  • Look up slightly and breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Dancer Pose

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  • From standing, shift weight onto right leg.
  • Bend left knee and grab the inside of left ankle with left hand.
  • Gently lift left leg and press ankle into hand to open your back.
  • Reach right arm straight up. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on other side.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Camel Pose

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  • Start in a high kneeling position with hips over and lined up with knees, and weight supported by shins and the tops of feet.
  • Tuck toes, as pictured, for a slightly easier variation of this pose.
  • Place palms on sacrum—fingers facing up or down, whichever feels better, tailbone reaching down—and draw elbows in to one another so that they aren't winging out.
  • Keep thighs rotating inward and pull shoulder blades toward one another and down back.
  • Look to the ceiling as you lift chest upward. Release hands to heels and arch spine.
  • Tip head back to keep the whole spine in extension if that is appropriate for your neck. Breathe here for at least 5 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Crescent Lunge Variation

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  • Start in down dog. Round right knee toward nose, and step right foot in between hands.
  • Lower back knee down to the ground. Crawl hands up onto right thigh, bringing spine upright.
  • Either reach arms up on either side of face, or interlace fingers behind sacrum and reach fist down and away from you (pictured), reach chest up and back.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Switch legs and repeat.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

"Easy" King Pigeon Pose

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  • Start in a long low lunge with right foot forward, and tap back knee down.
  • Slowly crawl hands up onto right thigh and breathe here for 5 deep breaths.
  • Bend left knee, grab hold of left foot and place it in crook of left elbow, then try to square off hips.
  • Bend right elbow and reach right hand back to clasp left hand.
  • If you can't reach, use a towel or yoga strap in between hands. Stay here for at least 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

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  • From down dog, sweep right shin forward, toward the front of the mat, but not as parallel to the front of the mat as you would in a forward-bending pigeon.
  • Keep left leg long behind you, toes untucked.
  • Bend left knee and take a hold of the left foot, and place foot in crook of left elbow.
  • Reach right arm to the ceiling, bend right elbow, and reach right hand back to clasp left hand. Breathe here.
  • Next, take a strap, loop it around back foot with enough slack to face torso forward, bringing upper arms on either side of head with forearms parallel to the ceiling and hands holding the strap.
  • Slowly, start to crawl hands as close to back foot as they want to get.
  • Stay here, or when possible, take a hold of the back foot with both hands and release the strap.
  • Breathe here for at least 5 deep breaths. Come out of the pose very slowly. Repeat on the other side.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Bow Pose

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  • Lie facedown. Bend knees and grab ankles with hands.
  • Press feet away from head, ankles into hands, keeping knees hip-width apart, and lift chest off the ground.
  • Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Wheel Pose

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  • Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the ground hip-width apart.
  • Bend elbows and place hands on either side of head shoulder-width apart with fingers pointing toward shoulders.
  • Pressing into feet and hands equally, lift hips and lengthen arms.
  • Keep pressing into feet through the big toes and reach chest away from feet as you stay here for at least 5 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

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