If you suffer from upper back pain, these simple yoga breathing tips may provide some relief.
Yoga is excellent for stretching and releasing the lower back and relieving pain, but what about upper back pain?
With today’s modern lifestyle of constant phone and computer use, we are often hunched forward for hours at a time, which leads to stiffness, pain, and dysfunction in the upper back, neck, and shoulders.
And the problems don’t stop there, as this article from YogaBasics.com points out:
And muscles and bones are only part of the equation. When one body system is out of balance, other systems—breathing, circulation of blood and lymph, digestion, even emotions—are also affected. Your mother was right: slouching is bad for you! But her well-meaning advice (Pull your shoulders back! Hold your head up!) often leads to overcorrection and more strain in the upper back.
So how can we combat these issues in a gentle and effective manner? (You probably know what I’m going to say…)
And it’s a lot simpler than you might think – though it may take some practice and mindfulness before you start to really feel the results.
As with many things in yoga, it all starts with the breath…
Sitting comfortably and breathing deeply, soften and gently round the upper back as you inhale. Receive your breath, allowing it to move the muscles, the spine, the back of the ribcage, the shoulders. As you slowly exhale, lengthen the spine and relax the shoulders downward without closing any space the breath might have created between the ribs or through the waist. You might be moving a few millimeters—similar to very gentle shoulder rolls—or not at all. Over time, merely becoming aware of the breath’s effect on the back of the body can help open and soften this region.
Next, add this back-body awareness to asana. When was the last time you really paid attention during Tadasana (Mountain Pose) instead of treating it as a launching pad for something else? Look closely: Tadasana is a rich source of landmarks and cues about posture. Do your shoulders roll forward and collarbones jut out? If so, align your ears with the tops of your shoulders, your hipbones and your ankles. Adjust the pose, but rather than forcefully rotating your shoulders back, let the breath guide your adjustments. When your teacher cues you to “open your heart,” take your awareness to the back of your heart as well, bringing spaciousness to the chest. These may sound simple, but for some, slowing down, altering your awareness and following the breath may some of the hardest things you’ve done on a yoga mat.
Remember that you don’t have to be on your mat to make these changes to your posture. Standing in Tadasana while waiting in a checkout line? Easy! When you’re pushing a grocery cart or driving your car? Sure! Overtime simple, regular postural changes (on your mat and off!) will go a long way in easing upper back pain.