Day 12 #SFYMindfulMay #upperback – If you’re experiencing stiffness or pain in your shoulders in yoga poses such as child’s pose (#balasana) or downward dog (#adhomukhasvanasana), in addition to opening your shoulders with the poses with straps I posted earlier, consider adding this supported upper back stretch to bring mobility to your spine. Use a foam roller, a bolster, or roll up a beach towel and place it underneath your shoulder blades at the bra strap; laying on your roller with cactus arms point your elbows down towards the ground and the bolster should touch your forearms. Choose a bolster/roller with the appropriate firmness and height so that you can touch or almost touch your elbows to the floor and which allows you to relax on the bolster without pain. Initial discomfort or tightness is typical and can be relieved as you stay and breathe in this pose. But, if your breath remains shallow, you feel like dropping f-bombs, or you’re clenching your face or jaw, then roll off that bolster slowly onto your side into a fetal position. Take a few breaths in this fetal pose to let intensity in your back to settle down. Slowly use your hands to push up to a seated position, then look for a towel or blanket you can roll up to minimize the intensity in this upper back opener. You may also want to start this pose just on the mat without any support under your back.
Consider staying in this pose with your arms out to a T or above your head. If you experience pinching in the back of your neck then place a pillow under your head. Explore placing support under the backs of your hands such as blocks or a cushion to see if this allows you to better relax your arms and the front of the chest and shoulders. Keep your shoulders down from your ears and let the fronts of your shoulders and chest relax, let your back sink into the roller. Bend your knees with the soles of your feet wide on your mat. Start with 5 slow, even ujjayi breaths. Over time build up to laying in this pose for 5 minutes. Deepen this pose by increasing the height of the rounded support under your back or progressing to use a yoga block at different heights.
Often stiffness in shoulders is connected to tightness in the upper back. Bringing mobility in your thoracic spine, (the upper third section of your spine), will give increase ease and access to all your yoga poses as well as improving your overall posture and health.
Be mindful in any yoga pose, consulting your doctor if you have known back or neck issues. And, breathe…slowly, intentionally, fully, and joyfully.