More than the Heart Muscle

I was in a yoga class the other day where we were focusing on heart-opening poses.  This can be challenging for me – sometimes even a simple upward dog (urdha mukha svanasana) can be very frustrating as I constantly think about depressing my scapula, while adducting my shoulders and extending my neck etc. etc.  The heart-opening upward dog actually requires a lot of muscles to be moving together in order for one to truly ‘open the heart’ which don’t actually involve the heart muscle itself.

Below are the movements and muscles further broken down:

  • Neck – extension by slightly contracting your semispinalis and lengthening your scalenes
  • Elbow – extension by isometrically contracting the biceps and triceps
  • Shoulders – extension and adduction by contracting your posterior deltoid and teres major and extending your anterior deltoids
  • Scapula – retracted by contracting the rhomboids and lengthening your serratus anterior
  • Spine – extension by contracting the erector spinae and lengthening the abdominal muscles (including: rectus abdominis, tranversus abdominis, obiquus internus, obliquus externus)
  • Hips – extension and adduction by contracting your hamstrings (including: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus) and lengthening your hip flexors (including: iliacus, tensor fasciae latae, iliopsoas, sartorius)
  • Knees – extension by contracting the quads (including: vastus intermedius, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis) and lengthening the hamstrings (including:” biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus)
  • Ankles – plantar flexion by contracting the calf muscles (including: flexor digitorum, tibilais posterior, gastrocnemius, plantaris, flexor halluces and abductor digit minimi) and lengthenging the tibiliais anterior