Do you find yourself hunched over a laptop all day?
Do you stare down at your phone for long periods of time?
If so chances are you will suffer from some degree of upper back pain.
Upper back pain is less common than lower back pain, but more people are suffering from it due to our busy modern lifestyles.
Think how these lifestyle factors cause upper back pain:
- ?Being overweight
- ?Lack of physical exercise
- ?Poor posture
If this sounds like you then I highly suggest starting to add yoga for upper back pain to your daily routine.
Besides strengthening, toning and stretching your muscles, yoga offers a myriad of other benefits:
- ?Stress relief
- ?Increased flexibility
- ?Boost to the immune system.
Upper back pain can also be caused by disease or other physical factors like vehicle accidents or lifting of heavy goods.
If these are not reasons enough to get you reaching for your yoga mat, check out the 38 benefits listed in this yoga journal.
Regardless of the cause of your back pain, it’s important to chat with your doctor and get the go-ahead before starting any physical exercise.
It’s also a good idea to tell your yoga teacher about your condition so that they can be mindful of this in class.
But usually yoga is a very smart exercise option.
- 1 What is Yoga and How Will it Help me?
- 2 5 Ways Yoga Helps to Alleviate Upper Back Pain
- 3 Let’s Get Started
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
What is Yoga and How Will it Help me?
If you have been to a doctor or trolled the internet for solutions, you will have noticed that stretching is a common recommendation to alleviate back pain.
Yoga will nail this brief perfectly, but it is so much more than just stretching exercises.
Yoga is a 2,000-year old practice which originated in India.
It is a practice and philosophy of the mind & body which combine physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation.
The idea is to bring focus back to your breath as you move from one posture to the next.
Breathing techniques are known as pranayama, and yoga postures are known as asanas.
The focus on breath helps to still the mind and bring you into awareness of the present moment.
There are so many different styles of yoga that it can be overwhelming to decide which one is best for you.
Some examples of the various styles are:
- ?Bikram (Hot yoga)
- ?Ashtanga yoga (power yoga)
- ?Restorative yoga
You don’t need to get bogged down understanding all the various styles.
There’s no best option; it’s about what you and your body feel comfortable with.
Try a few and see which works best for you.
Today, the most common practices are called Hatha yoga.
Hatha combines styles of yoga which focus on physical postures (asanas) and breathwork (pranayama).
The main difference is whether you need to move from one posture to the next slowly and purposefully or faster and in a more rhythmic manner.
Other less mainstream styles put more focus on the spiritual aspects of yoga.
If you would like to find out more about the various styles this article?will shed some light on the topic.
5 Ways Yoga Helps to Alleviate Upper Back Pain
It’s best to take a holistic approach to health and pain management.
It is important to include cardio, weight training and stretching into your exercise routine.
Yoga might not be the only solution to your back problems, but if you incorporate it into your pain management routine you’re likely to see good results.
Studies have shown that yoga can increase strength, flexibility and balance in just eight weeks.
But here’s the important fact: A single yoga class is not the answer to your back pain so it’s important to be consistent and add it in as part of your regular routine.
This should become a lifestyle.
Now let’s have a look at how yoga helps with back pain.
Earlier we spoke about our modern sedentary lifestyles and how this affects our health.
All those hours spent hunched over your laptop will cause your muscles to tighten leading to less mobility and ultimately to pain.
Aging also decreases the elasticity of our muscles making it harder to do simple tasks like bending down to tie your shoelaces.
The good news is that with a regular yoga routine which encourages long deep stretching you can maintain flexibility in your muscles leaving you feeling youthful and limber.
Many aging athletes practice yoga to keep up with the physical demands of strength training and exercise.
Stretching your muscles lengthens the tendons (muscle fibers) which are attached to the bone.
The longer these tendons are the more capable the muscle is of increasing in size.
The flexibility that you gain from yoga will assist you to build the strength required for better posture.
Now we can see how flexibility will help us improve our strength training, but why is it important to build strength and how does yoga achieve this?
Not all styles of yoga build strength and those that do tend to build functional strength, which is the strength required for day to day type activities. Certain yoga postures will require you to carry your own body weight which will help to engage your core muscles and build strength. If you want to bulk up on muscle size you will need to incorporate some weight training into your exercise routine.
Yoga will gently strengthen your back and abdominal muscles which assist the spine with proper posture and movement. Strengthening these muscles will help reduce your upper back pain.
Improved Posture and Balance
Don’t slouch! Stand up straight! Turns out your mom was right; a good posture is good for your overall health and to top it off, it makes you look more attractive too.
Good posture improves your bodily alignment and sense of balance.
When your body is properly aligned your organs function better.
A good posture is said to improve digestion and breathing as both your stomach and lungs function without restriction.
When your breathing improves more oxygen is sent to your brain which improves mental focus and memory.
A better posture and sense of balance is important as you get older to prevent serious injury caused by falling.
When your body is in alignment it is better able to balance the weight of your body evenly reducing back and neck pain.
Yoga does not cause weight loss by burning calories in the same way that aerobic exercise does.
Yoga leads to weight loss in the following ways:
- ?It will get you off the sofa
- ?It will bring you into awareness of your body which may lead you to making better decisions about the kind and quantity of food you eat
- ?It helps by relieving stress which can cause ‘comfort eating’
Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Power yoga are more rigorous and will burn a few more calories. I
f weight loss is your goal you can give these a try.
Work deadlines, relationship commitments, financial obligations … achieving a balanced state with all of life’s demands can sometimes be overwhelming and stressful.
Prolonged stress can cause a buildup of tension in your upper back and neck muscles.
Yoga which literally means to ‘yoke’ or ‘unite’ is so named because it aims to unite body and mind.
The increased awareness that you will experience through this unity has stress reducing and mood enhancing effects.
Stress reduction leads to other benefits such as better quality of sleep, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety and muscle tension.
Yoga will instill a general sense of wellbeing in your life.
Let’s Get Started
Finding a Class
Do you enjoy the energy of a large crowd or do you prefer a more intimate class environment?
These are some important things to consider when choosing which yoga studio to join.
A smaller class will allow the instructor to give you more personal attention while a larger class may have a pulsing energy.
Handy tip: Check to see if some of your local studio’s offer a free first-time class.
Attending one of these free classes will allow you to see if it’s a good fit for you before committing.
What Will You Need?
Yoga?mat This is not essential as most studios provide these, but you may prefer to take your own along.
Sweat Towel Believe it or not yoga gets sweaty especially more rigorous styles such as aerial yoga, power yoga and vinyasa.
Water It is so important to keep hydrated throughout your practice.
Yoga releases toxins from your muscles which can cause headaches.
Keeping well hydrated will help you to avoid these headaches.
A sweater Keep your muscles warm after class to avoid getting sick.
Clothes The type of yoga clothes that you wear depends largely on the style of yoga you pick.
For example, aerial yoga calls for tighter fitting clothing.
Restorative yoga is gentler, and you will be more comfortable in your flowy yoga pants.
Try This at Home
There are so many benefits to yoga it’s no wonder this ancient practice has stood the test of time. So now all that’s left is to begin. If you’re not ready to attend a class but would still like to give yoga a try in the comfort of your home, check out this video for beginners:
Important last tip: Remember to listen to your body and don’t push it too far if you experience any pain or discomfort.
Frequently Asked Questions
So we've proved yoga can be an excellent addition to your upper back pain management solution thanks to its many benefits and hopefully you know where to start off your yoga journey.
But starting can be daunting so we'll answer a few frequently asked questions most people have.
Set your mind at ease so your journey can start.
If I'm not flexible can I do yoga?
This is exactly the reason why you should do yoga.
It will help you improve your flexibility.
Some of the poses will be uncomfortable at first but gradually you'll get used to it and your body will become more flexible.
In some poses you will need to push through the discomfort, but it will be worth it in the end.
What if I am not spiritual? Can I do yoga?
Some forms of yoga put emphasis on the spiritual aspect, but most mainstream styles are more about the mind and body connection: Bringing your mind into awareness of your body.
This is beneficial to most people.
If I have a pre-existing health condition, can I do yoga?
The best is to consult your doctor before starting yoga.
In most cases it's safe to do yoga and very beneficial too.
But your body is unique so don't make assumptions and rather play it safe.