I used to be a full-time yoga teacher and had occasional stiffness or soreness here and there. But it was when I transitioned from teaching yoga to running a full-time business that I completely lost my range of motion. Suddenly, it seemed like I could barely touch my toes or lift my arms over my head without experiencing extreme pain.
On top of the spiritual, meditative, and happiness-boosting benefits yoga provides, one of the main reasons people return to the mat time and time again is to relieve the aches and pains caused by everyday life.
So if you've been dealing with back and shoulder stiffness recently, you're not alone—and you don't even need to take an hourlong class to reap the pain-relieving benefits of yoga. Here are three poses that will relieve upper back and shoulder stiffness. Practice them regularly and you will feel a world of difference!
1. Upward-facing hands.
With your feet on the floor, engage the thighs and arch your back up in cat pose. For a more effective upper back stretch, laterally rotate your upper arm at the shoulder joint and reach your arms up over your head. Breathe in and exhale a few times with your arms in this position.
2. Eagle arms.
Sit comfortably in a chair, reach one arm straight out, and laterally rotate both upper arms at the shoulder joint. Crossing your right arm over your left, bend at the elbows with your fingertips pointing upward. Try to touch your palms to each other and take a few breaths, relaxing the shoulders away from the ears. Repeat on the other side.
3. Forward bend.
Firmly plant your feet on the floor, keeping them wider than your hips. Breathe in and exhale, folding at the hips and resting your belly on your thighs. Let your head hang like a melon, gently shaking the head "yes" and "no." Note that you can also do this pose seated in a chair for more support.