Can be a difficult concept to put into practice as it involves engaging a host of movements at the same time. When engaged, it will open the heart centre, create space in the back, lift the trunk up from the pelvis, open the arm pits and stretch the lower back. It can be confusing to work with initially, and when we attempt to put into action several different movements at once.
Hri meaning heart or core, is said to be the centre of centres. It is a concept that goes beyond the personal and refers to the universal centre. Practising Hri Bandha will open our physical heart centre, but will also work directly on our subtle body through the connection with Anahata chakra. The heart area it is said is where we experience feelings, or attempt to hide from them. Practising Hri Bandha it is said will work to reverse our attempts to hide from our emotions and feelings.
It is not unusual to see students of asana with a closed heart area, it is clear to see in up dog (urdhva mukha svanasana). The most common mistake I see is students throwing back the head, closing the cervical spine, and completely collapsing in the trunk and heart centre. Take this bad habit through the practise and it just gets worse. I am not a fan of throwing back the head anyway, but it just gives a false impression when done without correct alignment throughout the whole posture. I see enormous change in back bending when the head stays in neutral, and work is put into lifting and opening the heart centre.
Opening the thoracic spine is also essential to progress in more advanced back bending. Poor posture will cause the thoracic spine to become fixed in a rounded position (kyphosis) which usually follows with weak back muscles as well. One of the key benefits to practising Hri Bandha, will be improved awareness of posture, which is essential if we are to breath correctly, and for the assimilation of prana.
As I said earlier, putting Hri Bandha into practise can be a bit confusing to begin with. It is essential to have a light Uddiyana Bandha switched on plus Mulha Bandha. Jalandara Bandha will come with the rest of the exercise.
So, putting it into practise begins with Samastithiti and hands together at the chest in prayer. Take the awareness to Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. Now take the awareness up to the front floating ribs, and spiral them towards the back, and raise the area around above the kidneys. Now, simultaneously lifting the whole chest and rib cage up off the pelvis, while maintaining the lower Bandhas.
These actions will make space in the abdomen, and allow the entire ribcage to expand and lift, while the sternum moves forward and up, and the chin drops. At the same time the armpits spiral from the front, upward and around towards the back.
Working with Bandhas, harnessing and channelling subtle energy, will create a lightness and openness in our posture and practise. Working with Hri Bandha will create space in the thoracic cavity, which is essential for back bending. Visualise energy radiating out from the heart centre, from all directions, will open the intercostal muscles, allowing the breath (prana) to be fully assimilated.
Freeing up this area, connecting with anahata chakra will free us up to face our feelings and fears.