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How to Use Yoga to Help Upper Back and Neck Pain

If you experience discomfort or limited movement in your upper back or neck, chances are your posture and possibly stress are the culprits. These Yoga moves help you avoid those problems and gives you an upper back-friendly Yoga routine.

This routine isn’t for anyone in acute pain, and it’s not recommended for people experiencing numbness, tingling, or weakness in their neck, shoulders, or arms.

Seated chair posture

This posture is the base for the entire upper back routine, so make sure you understand how to sit in a way that feels steady and comfortable.

  1. Sit comfortably in an armless chair with your back up nice and tall; place your palms comfortably on your thighs.

  2. Look straight ahead and bring your head comfortably back until the middle of your ears, your shoulders, and your hip sockets are in alignment.

  3. With your eyes open or closed, stay for six to eight breaths.

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Seated alternate arm raise sequence

Many of the muscles that go to your neck start between your shoulders, so this sequence is a good way to bring circulation to that area. Be sure to use both parts of the sequence, the arm raise and then the arm raise and head turn, to get the proper results.

  1. Start in the seated chair posture.

  2. As you inhale, raise your slightly bent right arm.

  3. As you exhale, return your right palm to your right thigh; repeat Steps 2 and 3, alternating with your right and left arms two to three times each.

  4. Continue raising and alternating your arms and turning your head away from each arm for two to three additional rounds.

    image1.jpg

Seated shoulder rolls

The neck and shoulders are one of the most frequent sites of tension for Westerners. Seated shoulder rolls can bring instant stress relief to stored-up tension.

  1. Start in the seated chair posture.

  2. Hang your arms at your sides and roll your shoulders up and back as you inhale.

  3. As you exhale, roll your shoulders down.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 four to six times and then reverse the direction of the rolls for four to six repetitions.

    image2.jpg

Wing-and-prayer sequence

Think of your upper back and neck as your wingspan; this sequence helps you keep that wingspan in balance.

  1. Start in the seated chair posture.

  2. Join your palms together in the prayer position.

  3. As you inhale, raise your arms comfortably above your head, keeping your hands in the prayer position.

  4. As you exhale, bring your hands and arms back down, still maintaining prayer position.

  5. As you inhale, separate your hands and move your arms out like wings to the sides at about shoulder height, lifting your chest and looking straight ahead.

  6. As you exhale, bring your hands and arms to the starting position in Step 2.

  7. Repeat Steps 1 through 6 four to six times.

    image3.jpg

Newspaper sequence

This is the most challenging sequence to coordinate. Give yourself some time to get used to it, and it may become one of your favorites.

  1. Start in the seated chair posture.

  2. Inhale and then, as you exhale, move both hands up to eye level with your palms facing you as though you were looking at a newspaper.

  3. As you inhale, move both hands up and follow your hands with your eyes and head until your hands are just above your forehead.

    Try not to turn your head too far back when you’re looking up at your hands. Think of rotating up from the level of your ears rather than your collar.

  4. As you exhale, bring your chin down to your chest without moving your arms.

  5. As you inhale, separate your hands and move your arms out like wings to the sides at about shoulder height, lifting your chest and looking straight ahead.

  6. As you exhale, extend your bent arms forward like they’re going over a log and round your back like a camel as you look down.

  7. As you inhale, lift your chest; rotate your elbows and palms inward as you raise your hands back to eye level as in Step 2.

  8. Repeat Steps 1 through 7 four to six times.

    image4.jpg

Seated sage twist

This twist rejuvenates the upper back as well as the entire spine. It also tones the abdomen.

  1. Start in the seated chair posture turned sideways with the back of the chair to your right; hold the sides of the chair back with your hands.

  2. As you inhale, extend or lift your spine and head upward.

  3. As you exhale, twist your torso and head farther to the right.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3, gradually twisting to your comfort level, and then stay in the twist for four to six breaths.

  5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4 on the left side.

    image5.jpg

Seated forward bend variation

A twist is almost always followed by a forward bend to rebalance the spine and hips, so here’s one to counter a twist.

  1. Start in the seated chair posture turned sideways with the chair back on either your left or right.

  2. As you exhale, bend forward from the hips and slide your hands down your legs as you hang your head, chest, and arms comfortably.

  3. Stay in Step 2 for six to eight breaths.

    image6.jpg

Seated relaxation

All of the concentration, breath, and movement leads to this moment.

  1. Start in the seated chair posture with your eyes closed.

  2. Use belly breathing and gradually increase the length of your exhalation until you reach your comfortable maximum.

  3. Take 20 to 30 belly breaths at your comfortable maximum and then gradually come back to your normal resting breath.

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