The Best Yoga Exercises Against Upper Back Pain

The Best Yoga Exercises Against Upper Back Pain

The fact that back pain nowadays is a widespread disease is well-known. Sitting too long, too little, wrong or one-sided movement – the reasons for a hurting back are manifold, but ultimately always result out of our typical lifestyle today. Lack of movement leads to weak trunk muscles, but a strong trunk is the basic prerequisite for a pain-free back.

Yoga helps you to strengthen your entire torso and to get a grip on back pain or even get rid of it. Here, we will show you the best yoga exercises against upper back pain, i. e. in the shoulder and neck area. We will proceed in three steps with three exercises each: First we will mobilise the upper back, then we will strengthen it, and finally we will stretch the upper back.

Note: In case of acute or chronic back pain, please always check with your doctor first whether the following yoga exercises are suitable for you.

Mobilising Exercises for the Upper Back

01 Shoulder Circles

• You can do this exercise standing or sitting. If you want to sit, find a comfortable sitting position, preferably with a meditation cushion.

• Slowly begin to move your shoulders in a circle, first to the front.

• After a few breaths, change direction and circle your shoulders to the back.

• Switch back and circle to the front, but now include the entire upper body in the circling movement.

• Again, after a few breaths, change direction and circle backwards again, taking the whole upper body into the movement.

Tip: Shoulder circles are a simple but effective exercise for shoulder mobilisation that you can even do on your office chair during your lunch break. If you notice that you are slipping into an unhealthy posture and your shoulders and neck are starting to pinch, simply let your shoulders circle back and forth a few times.


02 Back Rounding and Stretching

• You can do this exercise either standing or sitting.

• First take a few deep breaths in and out. With the next exhalation, round your upper body and push your arms far to the front with your palms facing forward, while at the same time lowering your chin to your chest.

• While inhaling, spread your arms wide to the side backwards and straighten your back and head again.

• Repeat a few times.

Tip: This exercise will not only make your back feel better, but it also contributes to a better posture. Make sure you inhale and exhale deeply evenly and parallel to your movements; this increases the relaxing effect.


03 Cat - Cow

• Come into table top position, knees hip-distance, hands shoulder-distance apart on your mat, back straight.

• With the next exhalation, roll up your back from the pelvis and let your chin sink to your chest, coming into a cat hump.

• While inhaling, stretch your back again, let your belly sink to the mat slightly and come into a slight backbend (cow).

• Repeat a few times.

Tip: Cat – Cow is the classic way to mobilise the spine. If you want to focus on the upper back exclusively, you can vary this exercise by moving the upper body only, with the pelvis remaining in a neutral position.


Strengthening Exercises for the Upper Back

01 Palms pressed against Each Other

• Again, you can do this exercise sitting or standing, whichever feels best for you.

• Bring your palms together in front of your chest.

• Now press your palms against each other firmly and bring your elbows together, pushing your arms upwards with your palms pressed together.

• Hold for a few breaths, then lower your arms again.

• Repeat a few times.

Tip: This exercise not only strengthens the shoulders, but also the upper arm muscles. You can even do it on your office chair during your lunch break when you realise tension in your shoulders.


02 Plank

• Come into Downward Dog.

• Pull your upper body forward until your arms are perpendicular to the mat, hands under your shoulders, upper body aligned parallel to the mat.

• Make sure you maintain all your body tension during this exercise.

• Hold for a few breaths and then release.

Tip: The Plank trains the upper back as well as the arms, abdomen, buttocks and thighs. This exercise is perfect for preventing back pain, as it strengthens the entire torso, the supporting apparatus of the spine.


03 Dolphin

• Come into table top position.

• Lower your forearms onto the mat with your elbows under your shoulders.

• Stand on your toes, lift your knees and push your buttocks towards the ceiling.

• Keep your legs bent at first and pull your shoulder blades together tightly.

• Straighten your legs, but only as far as you can keep your back straight.

• Hold for a few breaths and then release by lowering your knees back onto the mat.

Tip: The Dolphin is a relatively challenging inversion pose as it already requires a certain amount of strength in the shoulders. Approach carefully. Only go as far as it feels good for you. The more strength you build up in your shoulders, the easier this exercise will be.


Stretching Exercises for the Upper Back

01 Hand between Shoulder Blades

• Come into a heel sit, preferably on a meditation cushion.

• While inhaling, raise your left arm sideways, bend the elbow and, while exhaling, place your left hand between the shoulder blades.

• While inhaling, raise your right arm sideways and grasp the left elbow with the right hand.

• Gently pull your left elbow a little to the right with your hand and slightly press the back of your head against your left arm.

• Stay like this for a few breaths, then release and switch sides.

Tip: A nice alternative to this exercise is Cow Face with Belt: Stretch out your right arm (with the belt in the right hand) to the ceiling and the left arm to the floor, then bend the elbows (right downwards, left upwards), bring your hands behind your back and grasp the belt with the left hand.


02 Heart Opener

• Come into table top position, knees hip-distance, hands shoulder-distance apart on your mat.

• Move your hands forward until you can rest your forehead on the mat. Keep your hips aligned over your knees.

• Enjoy the stretch for a few breaths and let your chest sink to the mat.

Tip: This exercise not only stretches the shoulders and upper arms, but it also opens your entire chest, creating space for the lungs and heart and improving circulation, which in turn has an energising effect on body and mind.


03 Thread the Needle

• Come into table top position.

• Inhaling, raise your right arm to the side and turn your upper body up to the right. Your gaze follows your hand.

• Exhaling, slide your right arm under your left arm and rest the right shoulder and temple on the mat, your gaze following your hand.

• Hold for a few breaths, release while inhaling and then switch sides.

Tip: With this exercise, we are stretching shoulders and neck and mobilising the spine through the twisting movement. Consciously and deeply breathe in and out during this exercise to increase the relaxation effect.

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