In February – the month of love, we’re practicing heart openers. Practicing heart openers can sound terrifying because it implies being vulnerable and receptive to love and support. Before you decide this isn’t for you, let’s understand, from an anatomical perspective, the three positives impacts that heart openers will have on our volleyball game.

Improved Mindset for Leadership

Practicing poses that “open your heart” can build better listening skills and body posture that leads to leadership and mentorship. Being more emotionally open can keep your head in the game. When things go south, you’re less apt to shut down. You stay focused and proud to correct your mistakes and move on.

Better Lung Capacity

Aside from the emotional and mental benefits of heart openers, the physical benefits are profound for building lung capacity.  Inside your torso, your heart is surrounded by your rib cage, sternum and spine. These bones are held together by soft tissues like muscles, cartilage and ligaments. Your diaphragm is also nestled in there between the heart and lungs. Practicing heart openers can manipulate these parts to create expansion to receive a full, deep breath and increase blood flow!

Mobile Thoracic Cavity

According to the yoga journal, an immobile rib cage is a limiting factor in breathwork and movement all together, especially twists (which require rotation) and backbends (which require spinal extension). Envision your arm swing. Rigidity in the torso prevents the thoracic spine from moving through its max potential range of motion. The lack of thoracic extension in backbends can contribute to low back and neck pain caused by the lumbar (low) and cervical (high) spine hyperextending (overarching) to compensate for the lack of T spine movement. Cue heart openers.

So what does this have to do with shoulder health?

Generally, athletes will overcompensate for their lack of T spine mobility by straining the shoulders and injuring the rotator cuff muscles. The goal is to initiate movement from the middle back to take some of the load off the shoulders. So let’s open our hearts, expand our thoracic cavity to create more ROM (Range of Motion) in the shoulders.

To increase thoracic mobility and create more powerful torque, pop on over to our portal for some anatomically specific yoga for athletes classes!

Athletes: Register for YAX Online Portal of Yoga + HIIT + Jump Training + Breathwork + Meditation for $39/month (*7 day free trial)

Club Directors: Contact us at to discuss online training for your club! We take the hassle out of programming your performance training + yoga, so you can focus on volleyball.

View JVA’s fitness library for volleyball athletes

About the Author

Patricia Bomar is the co-owner of Yoga Athletex LLC with her sister, Kalynn Evans. She was an athlete from the age of 4, playing multiple sports competitively at the club level for 14 years. Her college years included club and intramural sports. She earned her B.S. in Sport Management from Texas A&M in 2007. While studying she worked under the TAMU Track & Field coach, as a personal trainer following the NSCA – CSCS program. At the time she was also a volleyball and softball coach and was an avid member of CrossFit. In 2013 she earned her 200 hour yoga certification and in 2015 earned her 300 hour yoga certification. Currently she has earned the ERYT500 standard. Shortly after, she became certified in Functional Movement Systems (FMSC). In 2017, she acquired her NASM – CPT certificate and continues to attend several intensives and workshops to stay up to date with current exercise science. Her latest certification was the fitness nutrition specialist (FNS) acquired through NASM. She is currently an official education provider for the National Academy of Sport Medicine, Athletics and Fitness Association of America and the Yoga Alliance. With over 17 years experience, Patricia has a strong passion for bringing the healing benefits of yoga to her fellow athletes for injury prevention and increased performance.