Working the middle upper back…
As we sit at our desk, hunched over our devices for endless hours then moving on to slouch on our favourite couch….our bodies have become slackers. We are creating a rounding in our middle upper backs, a closing in of our chests, that is neither commanding or energetic.
One of the easiest ways to bring the upper spine back into the body and open the chest area is in this supportive pose. This helps to relieve neck and shoulder tension, and you can grab a quick nap while you’re at it if that makes you happy.
Test your couch seat cushion for firmness, if it is too soft it won’t give you the same benefit, but it will be better than nothing. Another option is yoga blocks in front of your couch cushion, but that takes a little more arranging to accomplish…
Place the couch cushion on the floor
Sit on one short end of the cushion, have space on the far side for your head and shoulders
Lean back onto your forearms bringing your torso onto the cushion, including the bottom tips of your shoulder blades.
Press into your feet, with bent legs, to drag the shoulder blades over the edge of the cushion in order to bring your shoulders onto the floor
Press the outer upper corners of your upper arms down into the floor and lengthen the back of your neck out from between your shoulder blades. Soften the neck muscles
Once your outer shoulders are firmly planted, lengthen your tailbone and extend your legs one at a time
To come out: bend your legs, either push yourself back until your spine is flat on the floor or roll yourself to the side, being cautious of the height of the cushion
Why bother dragging your shoulder blades off the cushion? - taking the time to perform this action ensures the shoulder blades are firmly on your back, allowing the trapezius muscles to lengthen and the chest to open.
Pain in the lower back - keep the legs bent in this exercise. You can have the feet apart and the knees resting against each other.
My head falls back in this pose, shortening the back of the neck - if lengthening the back of the neck is particularly difficult for you, support the back of the head with the minimal height needed (perhaps a folded hand towel) to allow the back of the neck to lengthen: don’t over prop the back of the head.
Unable to get the shoulders to the floor - if your cushion is too high or you are just unable to get the shoulders to the floor: place a long folded towel, long wise against the head side edge of the cushion, to support the shoulders (this raises the height of the floor if needed).
How it helps:
Counteracting habit - hours spent with the middle upper back rounded out can be counteracted by ‘forcibly’ bringing that rounded area back into the body. Spend more than a minute here to become comfortable in the position and realign the body.
Chest - a secondary benefit to the position is the opening of the chest. When we round the middle upper back we invariably close the chest, this position opens the chest and the armpits: important for a happier frame of mind, a healthier heart and easier breathing.
Creating a healthier body can be overwhelming...
Taking one moment at a time to relieve an ache or pain can make a goal more achievable, and worth your time.
Wishing you great health, Tanya
Tanya is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher based out of Abbotsford, BC Canada. She has been teaching since 2015, strictly online since March 2020. Tanya volunteers her time as a board member for the BKS Iyengar Yoga Association Vancouver. Her greatest joy is being able to help discover movement.