Yoga Poses To Open the Back

Written by Carmela Cattuti, MA, Kripalu Certified Yoga Instructor.

Spring is here and humanity is coming out of the deep freeze. As yoga practitoners we are renewing our energy and yoga practice. Many yogis are thinking about diving into a more dynamic practice. During the winter our muscles tend to shorten and we are less likely to explore deep forward bends and backbends. Now that the spring equinox has graced us with her powers of regeneration we can now rejuvenate our body, mind, and spirit and proceed to expand.

upward dog

Age shows up in the back first. Twisting and bending our spine in all directions is essential to maintaining our youth and vitality. It benefits our over-all practice to focus on opening the back muscles during the warmer months. Even if we practice in a hot yoga class during cold months, it is not the same as having consistent warm weather to open our muscles. Spine flexibility plays an essential role in maintaining a safe back bend practice. Here are a few poses that assist with opening the back organically.

  1. Cat/Cow- This movement is especially useful in opening the upper back where most back bends get stuck. The upper back curves forward because of slumping shoulders.
  2. Undulating Bridge- The bridge is a pose that assists with the reverse curve of the spine. Start with your feet flat on the mat, arms by your side. Inhale and exhale your spine up and down a few times. Then start to slowly walk your heels toward your buttocks with each inhale, until your fingertips reach your heels. Intentionally move your shoulders away from your ears. Hold and breathe. If you have come this far and you would like more opening in the spine lift your heels and come on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your sacrum and place your heels down on the mat. This is a dynamic stretch for the upper back. Remove yours hands and slowly come down.
  3. Thread the Needle- Start on all fours and thread one arm through the other and come down on your shoulder. This is an excellent stretch for the upper back muscles. Breathe into the area. Repeat on the other side.
  4. Puppy Dog Pose- Start in child’s pose then slowly lift your hips while you keep your chin and chest on the mat. This stretch targets the mid spine.
  5. Upward Facing Dog- To focus on the spine start on your belly with your forehead on the mat. Slowly peal your head, chest, and ribcage off the mat. Lift the thighs off the mat and keep the front of your feet on the mat. Visualize your ribcage moving toward your inner body and expand the chest forward.
  6. Eagle Arms- Sit in simple pose and extend both arms out from your joint. Bring one arm under the other and press the palms together. Curve your upper spine forward and breathe into your shoulder girdle.

There are many other poses that release and open the back. The poses examined here are doable by most practitioners and present just enough challenge for any yogi. Remember to persist in the practice so that transformation is assured.

Carmela Cattuti is a Kripalu Certified Yoga instructor who began teaching in 1994. She is also the author of “Between the Cracks” and is a visual artist. She offers skype sessions and has an online Prenatal Yoga Training. Visit her web site at ccattuticreative.com. She frequently does free trainings on facebook live, follow her at carmelacattuticreative. Carmela feels that every yogi is an artist with his or her body.

Related Links