Yoga for Back Pain Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 2

Upper Back

30 min - Practice
91 likes
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Description

Cultivate a sense of mobility, strength, and comfort in your upper back. We move through accessible functional movements and yoga poses before softening into a guided body scan in Savasana. You will feel a sense of expansion and quiet.
What You'll Need: Mat, Block

Transcript

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Welcome. My name is Hattie Bluestone, and this yoga sequence is designed to cultivate a sense of mobility, strength, and comfort in your upper back. To begin, let's come down onto our backs. So coming to lying down, draw your knees in toward your belly, can take your hands behind the backs of the knees between your hamstrings and calf muscles. Allow your shoulders to relax and your eyes to close for a moment. And then let's just begin with three deep breaths. Breathing in, filling your lungs, and through your mouth, breathing out, maybe even sighing a little bit. Two more breaths like that, just letting go of your day so far and transitioning into your yoga practice. From there, keep your knees in toward your belly, but take your arms out to the side like a T, softening your shoulders and the backs of your hands to the earth. Begin to let your knees knock down a little bit toward the right and toward the left. So rocking your knees from side to side, and they don't need to go all the way toward the earth just yet. Just starting to feel a gentle rotation in your mid back and upper back. As your knees go one way, feel your opposite shoulder staying heavy. Rocking your legs down toward the right and toward the left. Next time that your legs rock down toward the right, take them all the way toward the floor. It's okay if that left shoulder reaches off of the ground or lifts off of the ground. From there, reach your left arm straight up toward the sky. Feel a softness around your shoulder and then reach your left fingertips up a few inches higher. See how far up those fingertips can reach. And then you can soften back to that original position. So we're just going to reach up a few inches. The arm stays straight and then softening the arm back down. So from there, you can start to reach in slightly different directions. What we're doing here is moving your shoulder blades and moving that left shoulder blade, reaching through the fingertips and then softening the shoulder back into its resting position. From here, take your left hand and bring it all the way to your right hand. So really roll to the right side of your body and place your left hand on your right hand. We're going to draw a circle around the body here as if you're drawing a circle in sand. So with your left fingertips, place your left fingertips on the floor just beyond your right hand. And now glide those left fingertips up and overhead along the earth all the way back out to the left side. Continue to glide your left fingertips along the earth down toward your hips. Lift the hand off of the ground and set it down next to your knees. So that's one circle and we'll do another one here. So glide your left fingertips past your right hand up and overhead. Your chest turns toward the sky, gliding your left fingertips down toward the ground. Lift the hand up and set it down next to your knees. Continuing here, inhaling, reaching the left arm forward and up and exhaling as you unfurl into this twist. Let's do two more. Let your head be heavy like a bowling ball, just going along for the ride. And your fingertips are touching the ground just as much as possible during these circles. One more time, reaching your left fingertips beyond your right, up and overhead. And then next time your left arm ends up toward the left. So you're just in this open twist. Pause there. You might allow your eyes to close once again and take a resting breath. Feeling the breath stretching your body from the inside. Let's do the same sequence on our second side. So roll across your back and take your legs down toward the left. Feeling this gentle twisting position.

And then reach your right arm straight up toward the sky. The key to this movement is the arm stays straight the whole time. Just reach the fingertips up a few inches and then soften your shoulder blade back down. Lifting the fingertips up a few inches and softening. To really start to mobilize that shoulder blade, you can start to reach in slightly different directions. Reaching toward your ceiling or your side wall and then letting the shoulders soften back toward neutral. From here, take your right hand and place it on your left hand, palm to palm. If you can, reach your right fingertips a little bit further so that they're on the floor. We're now going to draw a circle on the ground with the right hand. So glide your right fingertips up and overhead and then back out to the right side, turning you into that open twist. Glide your right fingertips down toward your hips and then lift your right hand off of the floor and set it down on the ground next to your knees. We'll do another circle. Reaching your right hand beyond your left hand, up and overhead and back out to the side. Gliding the hand along the earth toward your hips, lift up and then set the hand back on the ground. Let's do a few more circles here. Breathing in as you glide that right finger, the right fingertips up and overhead and breathing out as your spine turns open into the twist. Two more and letting your head be heavy like a bowling ball. This might create a nice stretch in your neck and also feeling as we're bringing a bit of mobility into your upper back and right shoulder. One more time. So gliding the right fingertips up and overhead and the next time that you end up with your right arm out toward the right, pause there. Again, you might soften your eyes to closed and just take a resting breath, feeling the way the breath gently stretches your body from the inside. Great. From here, we're going to warm up our abdominal muscles. For this, you can grab a block, grabbing your yoga block and coming onto your back again. Knees are bent with the feet on the ground and then take your hands to the block so that you have the block on its highest length between the palms of your hands. From there, press your low back into the earth and as you breathe in, reach the block back and overhead. So you're reaching the block toward the wall behind you and as you exhale, gently draw your navel toward your spine, reach the block up toward the sky and then reach it toward your knees. Pause here, breathing in and as you exhale, start to roll down one vertebrae at a time, reaching that block back and overhead. Inhale. As you exhale, reaching the block up toward the sky, curling up, rounding your spine a bit like cat pose. Pause here, breathing in. Exhale, rolling down one vertebrae at a time. Inhale, reach the block alongside your ears or your arms alongside your ears and as you exhale, rolling up. Just a little bit of abdominal strength to support our spine. Inhale here. Exhale, rolling down one vertebrae at a time.

One more to go. Inhale, stretching your arm bones alongside your ears as you exhale, rolling up and take a deep breath in right here and then exhale, roll all the way down. Nice job. You can set that block aside and we'll make our way all the way up to hands and knees. So just rolling to the side of your body, pressing yourself to hands and knees and here's an opportunity if you like to add a blanket underneath your knees. Spreading your fingers wide apart from one another and then we'll come into a version of cat and cow. So as you inhale, lift your sitting bones first, then feel your low back arch, feel your upper back arch and finally lift your head. As you exhale, let your head bow down first, then round your upper back, your mid back, finally round your low back and tuck your tailbone under, cat pose. Inhale, lift your sitting bones first, feel the back bend come into your low back, mid back, upper back, lifting the head and then as you exhale, let your head go down first, rounding your upper back, mid back, low back, tucking the tailbone under. So it's like a wave traveling through the spine, inhaling, lifting your sitting bones up, arching your low back, mid back, upper back, lifting the head and then as you exhale, let your head move first, upper back rounds, mid back, low back, tucking the pelvis under. Let's do one more like that. Inhale, sitting bones lift, arching your low back, mid back, upper back, lifting your head and then as you exhale, letting your head hang down first, rounding your upper back, mid back, low back, tucking the tailbone under and from there come into a neutral spine. We're going to come from here onto our fists. So instead of having your hands on the ground, put your fists on the ground and it's a bit like doing thumbs up toward the top of your mat. We're now going to move our shoulder blades. So as you inhale, gently squeeze your two shoulder blades together and as you exhale, push your fists down into your yoga mat and spread your shoulder blades wide apart. Inhale, with control, slowly glide your two shoulder blades together and as you exhale, push down into your fists and spread your shoulder blades wide apart. Inhaling, resisting gravity, moving slowly as your two shoulder blades hug in toward your spine and then as you exhale, pushing into your fists, broadening your upper back, feeling the shoulder blades even wrap around the sides of your rib cage. Let's do two more like that. Inhale, with control, gently squeezing the shoulder blades in, exhaling, pushing down into your fists and spreading apart. Good. One last one. Inhale and exhale. Good. From there, come back onto your hands. This next movement is windmills. So you'll extend your right leg back with your right tippy toes touching the ground. Then find your opposite hand, your left hand. And as you breathe in, send your left arm forward and up toward the sky. As you exhale, reach that hand toward the back of your mat and then down toward the floor. So we're drawing again a big circle. Inhale the left arm forward and up. Exhaling, reaching back, back, back and around. Three more. Moving not just your shoulder but your spine. Inhale, forward and up. Turn your heart to the side or even the sky. Exhaling, coming around and turning your chest back down facing the earth. Two more. Inhale, lift out of your right shoulder. Push that right hand into the ground. Exhaling all the way around. Like a moving meditation.

Inhale, left arm goes forward and up. Exhaling, back and around. Come back to hands and knees and we'll set up for the second side. So extend your left leg back with your left tippy toes touching the earth and we'll begin to move the right arm. Inhale, glide your right arm forward and up, turning your chest toward the side. Exhale, reaching back, back, back and around. Moving to the pace of your own breathing. Inhale, filling your lungs, reaching your right arm up. Exhale, reaching back and around. So here we're rotating the spine, opening the shoulders. Inhale. Exhaling. Let's do two more. Push your left hand into the earth. Inhale the right arm forward and up. Feeling the movement as you go. Exhaling, back and around. Last round. Inhale, turning your chest. Exhaling, coming all the way around. Replace your hand and knee and we'll come into downward facing dog. So tucking your toes under, reach your hips up and back. Making a triangle shape with your body. Reaching your hips to the place where the ceiling and the back wall meet. Relaxing your head and neck and then settling in for a few long breaths here. From downward facing dog, bring your knees down to your yoga mat and then step your right foot forward toward the top of your mat to come into a lunge. Tuck your tailbone under and lift yourself up into low lunge. From here, turn the palms of your hands to face forward. We're going to inhale and reach our fingertips up toward the sky and as you exhale, bend your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades down your back. As you inhale, reach your arms up toward the sky and as you exhale like you're pulling something down. Exhale and pull your arms down. Elbows come in toward the sides of your rib cage. Let's do a couple more. Inhale, lengthening up. Exhale pulling. It's almost like doing a pull up. So really pulling down using the strength of your back muscles. Two more. Inhale, lengthen up. Exhale, pull. Shoulder blades squeezing down the back. One more. Inhale and exhale. This time inhale, stretch your arms up toward the sky and as you exhale, bring your hands down and press back into downward facing dog pushing the earth away from you. Take an inhale through your nose. Exhale, bring your knees down toward the mat and now step your left foot forward toward the top of your mat. Once again coming into low lunge, tuck your pelvis under, lift your frontal hip points up and this time reach your arms forward for a mid row. So the palms of your hands are facing down, arms parallel to the ground. Take an inhale here and this time as you exhale like you're rowing a boat, bend your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together on the back. Inhale, slowly glide your arms forward and exhale, rowing back squeezing the shoulder blades in. Inhale, feel your upper back broaden. You could even round a little bit here and then exhale, squeeze, stretching your chest. Two more nice and strong. Inhale, gliding the fingertips forward with strength and rowing your arms back. Good. One more inhale and exhale. Reach your arms up toward the sky breathing in, downward facing dog breathing out. So stepping back, finding that triangle shape again. Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Bring your knees down toward your yoga mat and now come to lying down on your belly. Come into the superhero position so your legs are back and your arms are straight forward.

Bring your chin in slightly toward your chest. This movement is opposite arm and leg. So as you inhale, lift your left arm up, your chest up and also your right leg off of the ground. As you exhale, you're going to bend your left elbow just like we did before doing a pull up. So bending that elbow in toward the side of your rib cage. If you like, you could bend your right knee as well. Inhale, stretch your arm and leg towards straight and exhale, release. Lift your right arm up and your left leg up, chest off the earth. Exhale, bend your right elbow and your left knee. Look to your right. Inhale, glide them towards straight and exhale, softly release. Inhale, left arm and right leg lift up. Exhale, look to your left as you bend that left elbow, pulling the arm back. Inhale, glide your arm towards straight, your leg towards straight. And exhale, soften back down. Again, inhale, right arm and left leg. Pull your right arm back, pull the shoulder blade down your back, bend your knee. Inhale, glide the arm and leg towards straight. Exhale, release. Two more on each side. Inhale, lifting up, strengthening your back. Exhale, pull the left shoulder blade down your back, shoulder away from the ear. Inhale, lengthen. And exhale, soften back toward the earth. Inhale, right arm and left leg lifting up. Exhale, pull, bending the elbow, bending your knee. Inhale, lengthen your arm and leg towards straight. Exhale, slowly soften. One more on each side. Inhale, lifting your right leg and your left arm. Exhale, bend. Inhale, straight. And you might be feeling this in your back muscles. That's good. Exhale, soften back down. Last one, right arm lifts, left leg lifts. Exhale, bend. Inhale towards straight. And exhale to the earth. Now just make a pillow for your head and take a few resting breaths here, just lying down on your belly. From there, place your hands next to your chest and press yourself into child's pose. So bringing your hips toward or to your heels, arms forward, forehead to your mat. Feeling the movement of the breath in your low back. From child's pose, let's come into a seated position. So coming onto your mat, setting up in a cross-legged seat, you could always add a blanket underneath your hips if that would make you more comfortable here. From there, lengthening your spine. And go ahead and take your right hand to the mat on the right side. Reach your left arm up and over to create a stretch in the left side of your body. From there, bend your left elbow and gently place the left hand at the base of your skull. Push your right hand down into the earth and inhale, turn your chest slightly toward the ceiling, reaching that left elbow back. As you exhale, point your left elbow toward your right knee, turning your chest toward the ground. Inhale, push the earth away and spiral open, looking up.

And then as you exhale, gently rotate your spine, pointing your left elbow toward your right knee. One more like that. Inhale, spiral open, stretch your chest. Exhale, stretching your upper back as you point elbow toward knee. This time, inhale and open and then release that top arm towards straight. So straighten your left arm, reach through the fingertips, feel a stretch along the left side of your body. Take one more inhale right here and then becoming very tall as you sit up and come back to the center. For the second side, take your left hand to your mat, reach your right arm up and over, creating a stretch on the right side of your body. From there, gently bend your right elbow and place the hand at the base of your skull. Push the earth away with your left hand in order to turn your chest toward the ceiling and reach that right elbow back. As you exhale, gently point your right elbow toward your left knee, rounding your spine. Inhale, spiral open, stretching your lungs and chest. And exhale, bending your left elbow so that you can point the right elbow toward the left knee. One more time, inhale, spiral open and exhale, round. This time, take an inhale and open up and then release that top arm towards straight, creating an even deeper stretch along the whole right side of your body, right side of the rib cage and waist. Take one more inhale here, reaching through your fingertips and then sitting up very tall as you exhale and come back to the center. Good. Staying seated, we're going to do a sequence that's a little bit like Cat and Cow. So taking your hands to your knees or your shins, take an inhale and draw your heart forward, back bending here, stretching your chest. And then as you exhale, rock back toward your sitting bones, rounding your spine like Cat Pose, tucking your tailbone under. Inhale, rock forward again, lifting your chest and your gaze. And on your second exhale, take a forward fold, folding in so that your forehead reaches toward or to the earth. Inhale, sit up tall. Exhale, rocking back toward your sitting bones. Inhale, sitting up tall, lifting your chest and your gaze. And on that second exhale, take a forward fold, letting your forehead reach down toward or to the earth. Let's do that again. Inhale, sit up tall. As you exhale, rock back toward your sitting bones, spreading your shoulder blades wide apart. Inhale, rocking forward, lifting your chest and gaze up. This time, exhale, forward fold. And if you like, you can take your hands with you, either making a pillow for your forehead or reaching your arms straight forward. Feel a gentle stretch in your outer hips as you breathe here. Inhale. And exhale. Two more breaths like that, settling down, slowing down. Inhale. And exhale. And exhale. One last one, breathing in. And breathing out. Wonderful. From here, we're going to come into final relaxation. So come around back onto your back. This time you can allow your legs to be straight. You could have your arms out to the side with the palms of your hands up. But if you're having a difficult day or something stressful going on in your life, it's always nice to take one or both hands to your belly, your chest, your heart, somewhere in the body that would feel soothing and comforting for you. Allow your eyes to gently close. And we'll take a few deep breaths here, just letting go of the practice as you exhale. For relaxation today, I'm going to guide us through a gentle body scan. Just a reminder that there's really no way to do this yoga pose wrong. So just settling in, noticing what this experience is like. Bring your awareness to your eyes and eyebrows and just soften the small muscles around your eyes and eyebrows. And feel as your forehead becomes a little bit more smooth. You might unhinge your jaw. And feel as the muscles of your cheeks begin to soften. Even the tongue and the inside of your mouth. And bring your awareness down to your shoulders and notice if there can be a natural letting go in your shoulders. Like ice melting into water. Allow your awareness to fill your arms. Feeling the tingling or pulsation, aliveness in your arms. Bring your awareness to the palms of your hands. Just feeling your hands, your thumbs, pointer fingers, middle fingers, ring fingers and pinkies.

Take a moment here just feeling the aliveness in your hands. And then bring your awareness to the region of your chest. Your lungs, heart, upper back. Take a moment to feel the movement of your breathing here. A sense of expansion as the breath flows in. And a softening as the breath flows out. Noticing the body soften with each exhale. Bring your awareness now to your belly. Notice if the low belly muscles might soften a little bit. And again feeling your breathing now in your low belly. A sense of expansion as the breath flows in. And a softening as the breath flows out. Feel the heaviness of your hips and pelvis supported by the earth. Feel your legs with awareness sensing the legs from the inside. All the way down to your feet and toes. Just noticing if there's any sensation there in your feet or toes. Now broaden the lens of your awareness to sense your whole body. Tingling, pulsation, allowing yourself to rest into the support of the earth. If you have a little bit longer to rest and relax today, you're welcome to stay exactly where you are. If you'd like to take a formal close of today's class together with me, you can gently bend your knees, placing your feet on the ground. From there rolling to the side of your body and just pausing there for a moment during this transition. And then placing your hands into the earth. Let's come up to a comfortable seated position. Drawing the palms of your hands together in front of your heart if that feels good. For another moment, allow your eyes to close, allow your awareness to fill your body. Taking a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Thank you so much for your practice today. Namaste.

Comments

Jenny S
9 people like this.
It’s always such a delight to greet a a practitioner who is new to Yoga Anytime! I loved this practice…not only did it warm and soften my tight upper back and shoulders, it felt like a very nourishing full-body practice as well. Honestly, this even took care of some odd digestive issues I was having today ☺️. I would recommend this as a great “tool kit” practice, and I’m looking forward to the rest of this season! 🙏🏻❤️🙌
Kare H
5 people like this.
I had a serious spinal injury a few years ago and my PT started me on yoga for rehab. These classes are a perfect addition to what I have been doing. Thank you!!
Donna D
5 people like this.
This was perfect, just what it said it would do.  Thank you
Shawn
3 people like this.
Wonderful! Really helped my husband who had a lot of shoulder pain and tightness. So grateful!
David G-
3 people like this.
Kismet! I needed this. Love those shoulder openings and I reached higher in bridge than ever before because of all the back work. Dealing with some shoulder issues on the bike. Will try some of these at stops signs.   Namaste 
Sandra Židan
Wonderful and calming practice! Thanks, Hattie! Namaste! 🌞🌼🌹💖
Kate M
1 person likes this.
So many great ideas to play with here! It felt great. Thanks, Hattie!
Beatriz O
My upper back is also very stiff and this practice was just what I needed.  Thank you, Hattie!
Alana Mitnick
Ahhhh... such a nice counterpose to breastfeeding. Thank you, Hattie! xoA
Beatriz O
1 person likes this.
Just what the doctor ordered!  What a relief for my sore shoulders!  Wonderful! 
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