Article by Jackie Edwards
The daily grind doesn’t leave us with much time to focus on keeping our body, mind, and spirit relaxed. Uncomfortable upper back pain can result from the stress of keeping up with a hectic work schedule and a busy home life.
Driving in your car, sitting at your desk, or lounging on the couch as you read a book can all lead to problems with the muscles of your back, neck, and shoulders. Poor posture can strain muscles and even weaken the chest over time, leading to health complications in the future.
Taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule and engaging in some light yoga can work wonders for an aching upper back. You can stretch out your muscles to improve posture and eliminate pain, making it easier to focus on the important things in life as you go about your day.
Snake and Cobra Stretches
The Snake, or Cobra, realigns the shoulders while strengthening both the upper and lower back.
For a simple stretch that won’t put too much stress on the muscles of your back, try The Snake. Not only does the move strengthen your back, glutes, legs, and ankles, but it will also help to open up your chest and realign your shoulder blades to make breathing easier.
● Lie on your stomach, keeping your feet level with your hips and your arms resting by your sides.
● Join your hands behind your back and keep your feet pointed behind you.
● Lift your chest as you inhale deeply, then draw your shoulders back as you exhale. Breathe through your nose and hold the pose for five to ten seconds.
Locust and Bridge Positions
For a more advanced stretch, try the Locust, which involves a slight variation on the traditional Snake. Simply lift your feet off the ground to work your core muscles as you stretch your chest and shoulders.
The Bridge stretches the hip flexors, abs and shoulders, increasing mobility in the spine and lower body.
This pose stretches out the entire back, including muscles in both upper and lower areas. Like the Snake, it helps to realign the shoulders and open up the chest, but it also strengthens the knees, thighs, and glutes while increasing mobility in the spine and hips.
● Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the ground and even with your hips.
● Keeping your toes pointed straight and your arms at your sides, move your feet until your heel reaches your fingertips.
● Using your feet for leverage, lift your hips as far as you can off the ground. Roll your shoulder blades underneath you as you move, and hold the post for five to ten deep breaths through the nose.
You can challenge yourself to a variation of this move by rolling your shoulders to join your hands underneath you, then straightening your arms to their full length. This allows you to stretch your upper back and shoulder muscles even more deeply. Anyone sporting an injury in their back or neck should avoid this pose.
The Upward-Facing Plank stretches out the shoulders and inner arms while strengthening core muscles.
This pose focuses on the muscles of the shoulders and upper arms as well as core muscles surrounding the waist and hips. This stretch can help to improve your overall posture while strengthening essential muscles in the feet, ankles, legs, neck, arms, and shoulders.
● Sit on the floor, keeping your legs pointed straight in front of you.
● Face your hands palm-down and move about six to ten inches behind you, pointing your fingertips towards your feet.
● Lift your hips all the way up and either tuck your chin to your chest or look up at the ceiling, keeping your weight on your palms as you hold the pose for between five and ten deep breaths.
If the Upward-Facing Plank causes too much stress on your hip or knees, you can alternatively try The Crab instead. Instead of keeping your legs straight, you can bend them to relieve some of the pressure on your joints.
After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from health and wellness, right through to news and current affairs. She has, in the past battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time, she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.