Sunday, March 11, 2012

Releasing Back Tension

As an office dweller, I hold a lot of tension in my upper back.  Even with a regular vinyasa yoga practice and a monthly massage, my upper back was tight all the time. 

When I started regularly practicing yin yoga though, I finally began making headway on releasing the tension. This gentle form of yoga, done on the floor with blankets and blocks, changed my life. 

Good news! They are easy to try in the comfort of your own home. 

Specifically caterpillar and butterfly poses are excellent for releasing the back. I literally felt my back "unwinding" when I started practicing those poses. If your back is tense consider trying these poses regularly. 

Add in some half-butterfly with a *side* bend for good measure. Very few of us laterally flex our spine in our daily activities so this one is especially great for releasing those muscles.

Two notes:
  • My mantra is "the more support the better" so I always rest my head on a block or pillow while in the poses to remove even more effort. 
  • When I first started practicing these poses, my back felt amazing afterward but later in the evening I would get terrible tension headaches.  I realized it was because my neck muscles didn't know what to do with my back muscles being relaxed.  It took a while to recalibrate how my back and neck worked together.