This is the same motion described so much in asana practice to open the arm pit chest complex and shoulder girdle. It is a necessary ingredient for the facilitation of jalandhara bandha (in order for the chin can rest upon the sternal notch the sternum/chest must raise to meet it). It appears complicated because it utilizes the rib attachments both in front at the sternum and at the transverse processes in back. Being that the ribs connect with the pelvis, neck, and skull much is involved both in front and in back, up and down, and laterally as well. Hri bandha involves the oft times obscure internal relationship between the sternum, ribs, spine, collarbones, scapula, humerus, pelvis, trochanter, and skull. In order for this area centered at the heart to open energetically from the inside out in all directions., the lower bandhas first have to be engaged and stable.
Hri meaning heart or core is the heart of the heart and ultimately refers to the transpersonal heart of all hearts or central axis of the universe associated with the deepest interconnection of the sahasrara chakra which cannot be described by the author. But here in the human heart area our feelings and/or our ability to feel or fear of feeling come into contact with the sea of our emotions as well as our ability to express our feelings. It is here that we feebly and dysfunctionally try to hide from our pain and fears. Conversely, hri bandha reverses this energetic close down of the anahata chakra (feeling center).
Paradoxically some call Hri Bandha, banker’s pose, because of the stereotype of the banker sticking his thumbs up and under the arm pits moving the armpit chest forward and up in a spiral movement while the scapula sinks. Richard Freeman is fond to remind us that banker’s pose is open 24/7 — all the time.
Moving the center of the sternum forward; the lower ribs and navel point down and back (nabhi and uddiyana bandha); the upper most ribs, collarbone, and top shoulder points tilt up, around, back, and down; the top of the scapula moves posterior and caudad, the bottom of the scapula pressing anterior (toward the sternum) and slightly up, the medial sides of the scapula abduct and separate from each other (but not protract) while moving anterior, the center of the armpits rotate up, around, and back,, the collarbone widening and lifting (usually with in-breath). This motion is very difficult to visualize utilizing the three plane model, but it can be strongly felt with grace and gratitude.
This all occurs without raising the back of the occiput up (the latter occurs with jalandhara bandha when combined with hri bandha). Visualize the heart expanding forward as a circle in all directions while you visualize interlocking the heart energy with the throat chakra, ajna, and sahasrara above and the manipura, swadhistana, and muladhara below. This movement is essential for backward bends of the torso, relieving congestion of the heart, relieving fear and anger, expressing feelings, alleviating pulmonary congestion, certain digestive disturbances, shoulder, neck ,and upper back problems, and other endemic problems of this region.
Hri bandha opens the heart chakra and upper thoracic region connecting the throat (akasha) with the belly (fire). It accomplishes/completes jalandhara bandha by being activated — as the chin approaches the sternal notch, the sternal notch raises to meet the chin. This is the motion that opens the chest, remediates kyphosis, and accomplishes/completes upper backward bends (back extension) such as in raj kapotasana (king pigeon), full locust (salabhasana), matsyasana, urdva-dhanurasana, etc. It allows us to stay in touch with our feelings, opens our heart, allows us to cope with sadness and depression, counteracts sunken chest, down trodden and burdensome feelings, cowering, fear in general, low self esteem, obsequiousness, and so forth. Hri bandha is very useful in lung, chest, neck, throat, and shoulder complaints.
People with military chest or over extended thoracic curves and flat backs should consult a yoga therapist.