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If you’re anything like us, you probably spend too much time hunched over screens (hey, those screen time reports don’t lie!). As a result, we expect you’re probably also dealing with some nagging upper-back pain. As much as we hate to admit it, posture matters when it comes to maintaining the health of your spine and those crucial upper-back muscles. If you’re not the best at sitting up straight while at your computer—and I speak from experience, as I type this hunched over my own laptop—yoga poses for upper-back pain can help.
What Causes Upper-Back Pain?
Claudia Jasper, a yoga teacher based in New York, agrees that one of the most common causes of upper-back pain is poor posture—and certain daily activities, like texting, typing or carrying a heavy bag, can exasperate your pain. Other causes of upper-back pain, according to medical professionals at the University of Michigan, include overusing your back muscles or pressure placed on your spinal nerves from a herniated disc.
See also: 8 Yoga Poses to Ease Lower Back Pain
What to remember when practicing yoga for upper-back pain
Yes, yoga can help relieve upper-back pain. But before you start your practice, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure you don’t cause further injury. Jasper says when practicing with upper-back pain, be mindful of your shoulders rolling forward. Instead, she recommends consciously rolling your shoulders back throughout your practice. This movement allows your shoulder blades to glide down your back, keeping your chest open—and your spine long.
As always, consult a medical professional before starting any physical practice, especially if you have chronic upper-back pain.
7 Yoga Poses for Upper-Back Pain
1. Marjaryasana (Cat Pose) and 2. Bitilasana (Cow Pose)
Is there any better way to wake up—and energize —your spine and upper back than with a Cat–Cow flow? Make sure to flow slowly in and out of these two postures. Jasper recommends moving through Cat Pose and Cow Pose as a warm-up for your spine vertebrae. These poses can be done in the traditional Tabletop position, but Jasper says you can also perform these same spinal movements while seated in Sukhasana (Easy Pose).
3. Urdhva Mukha Pasasana (Thread the Needle Pose)
Looking for a posture that will open and stretch the muscles of your upper body? Enter: Thread the Needle Pose. This restorative pose opens your upper back and gives your shoulders the space that they desperately need. “[This pose] enforces [your] shoulder blades and rhomboids to draw away from [the] spine, creating length,” Jasper says. She suggests coming into this posture from a Tabletop position.
4. Virasana (Hero Pose) With Arms of Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Hero Pose is a great way to take stress off your overburdened (and overworked) legs. Jasper suggests combining this gentle posture with the arms of Eagle Pose, which will allow you to open up your upper back. In addition to stretching the muscles of your upper back, this arm positioning will stretch your shoulders.
Can’t decide between Balasana (Child’s Pose) or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)? Why not practice Extended Puppy Pose, a posture combining elements of both? Extended Puppy Pose lengthens and stretches your entire spine. Jasper says this pose is one of her favorites for opening the frontal chest and shoulders (important components to relieving upper-back pain). Want to try something different? She says you can also opt to practice this pose with a wall.
Jasper says she loves this chest-opening yoga posture for upper-back pain relief. This backbend opens your heart, chest, and shoulders, giving you the space to breathe into your upper body—and create space. If you can’t practice the full posture, you can opt to practice a modified version of this pose with your hands on your lower back or propped up on a set of blocks.
7. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) With a Bolster
Take the pressure off your upper back—and give it some much-needed relief in this restorative posture. Jasper says she loves this pose with a bolster because it opens and expands your upper chest. “Set up [your] bolster in line with [your] spine at the top of your mat,” she says. “Take a seat at the top of your mat, bringing the soles of the feet to touch. Let your knees spread open [and] lay vertically back on to the bolster. The bolster should be in line with your spine. Allow your arms to open horizontally, palms turned up.”
— From Yoga Journal