Many people suffer from feelings of tightness, stiffness and pain in their chests. Tightness in the pectoralis major, the large upper chest muscle that helps with shoulder rotation, is a common symptom that results in hunched shoulders and the forward projection of the head and neck. This can cause pain in your chest, upper back and neck, according to Clair Davies, author of "The Trigger Point Workbook." Certain yoga postures may help alleviate chest tightness and pain by opening, expanding and stretching the chest.
Certain yoga poses can help you with chest tightness caused by poor posture, overuse and strain. Yoga chest openers help stretch your pectoral muscles, improve your range of motion, promote better posture, reduce pain and increase your level of flexibility in your chest, arms, shoulders and neck. Yoga may also help alleviate chest tightness and poor posture caused by stress, anxiety and tension, according to meditation, tai chi and qigong instructor Lee Holden in his book, "7 Minutes of Magic: The Ultimate Energy Workout."
There are dozens of yoga postures that may help symptoms of chest tightness. According to "Yoga Journal," active, backbending postures like Dhanurasana, or the Bow Pose, and Bhujangasana, or the Cobra Pose, help open your chest, stretch the entire front of your body, help alleviate stress and fatigue, and stimulate your abdominal organs. Other beneficial poses include restorative chest openers, such as the Supported Chest Opener, in which your entire body is supported on bolsters and blankets to allow your arms and chest to expand and stretch naturally.
According to certified Hatha yoga instructor and kinesiologist Kreg Weiss in an article for My Yoga Online, there are certain factors you should keep in mind before performing specific yoga chest opening exercises that involve interlacing your fingers behind your back. To avoid potential wrist injuries, Weiss suggests checking your overall level of flexibility, slowly easing into chest opening postures and maintaining proper alignment in your wrists during these poses. If your chest muscles are very tight, you can modify many chest openers by holding on to a strap placed behind your back. With practice and time, your chest muscles will gradually become more flexible and you will be able to perform chest opening poses with greater ease.
Chest tightness is often a result of poor posture, excessive use or muscle strain, but it may also be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a panic attack or a heart attack. If you experience symptoms such as squeezing or crushing sensations in your chest, nausea, dizziness or other symptoms not listed here, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.