Upper Back Release

On my list of top requests for class is upper back release. Between our desks, our cell phones, our steering wheel, and how much we just tend to live in our brains … the upper back gets very neglected and very tight. Here is a mini sequence to help get the upper back moving and to release some of the typical tight spots. Pick one or two poses from this sequence, or do them all. Either way, your upper back will thank you.

Try to stay in each shape for at least 5-10 rounds of breath. Longer if you have the time. And because this is a sequence focused on releasing tension – pay extra attention within each shape to where you are habitually carrying tension, and try to find a sense of softening and release in those spaces. Here are some notes on what to be focusing on in each posture. Notes below run left to right through the sequence.

1. Childs Pose with the arms in prayer behind the head. Try to be truly on the back of the elbows, and not on the inner elbow. As you breathe here, focus on feeling your breath in the back and specifically between the shoulder blades.

2. Cat/Cow. Inhaling into cow. Exhaling into cat. Feeling the spine moving as a whole from tail bone all the way through the back of the neck.

3. Downward Facing Dog. Lots of things you can focus on here – but for this sequence, focus on allowing your head to hang. Just let the neck release and allow gravity to do its work.

4. Sphinx. Attempt to press your elbows forward, back, out and in all at the same time, to give yourself a solid platform. And then allow your chest to move forward, through your arms as your shoulders melt down and back. From all of this work, allow your neck to lengthen and emerge.

5. Cat/Cow Lunge. If your hands don’t comfortably reach the floor, place blocks or something similar beneath your hands. As you inhale, bend both knees and lift your head and chest upward. As you exhale, straighten both legs and fold, allowing the head to hang. Move with your breath through 5-10 rounds.

6. Puppy Dog. Hips stay stacked over knees as you walk your arms forward. Option 1 is forehead on the floor. Option 2 is chin on the floor. Melt your heart toward the floor and breathe into the front and back of the heart.

7. Twisting Low Lunge. Create a gentle pressure between your latched elbow and your outer thigh (the two pressing into each other), to increase the benefit around the bottom shoulder blade. Look wherever the neck feels most relaxed.

8. Forward Fold with a Toe Grab. Bend your knees enough that you can slide your peace fingers (index and middle finger) between your big toe and second toe. Latch the fingers around the big toe. As you fold, bend your elbows out to the sides. Allow your head and neck to fall towards the ground, but drag your shoulders and shoulder blades towards the ceiling.

9. Supine Twist. Arms can be in a T or a goal post. As the knees move to the side, try to keep both shoulders rooting into the floor and lengthening outwards.

10. Resting with head elevated on block. Try to use the medium height of the block and position it directly below your occipital ridge. Let the knees bend and fall into each other and then let yourself get as relax and heavy as you can. You can roll your head side to side if you’d like, but just purely by resting in this shape you’re releasing trigger points along the spine.

Happy practicing! Feel free to email me with questions or requests: mikkitrow@gmail.com.