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Yoga Poses to Improve Back Flexibility

Back pain relief could be as simple as increasing spine and back flexibility. Sport Yoga can help stretch & elongate the muscles in the torso.

Stiff back? That comes at no surprise.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.

Back pain relief could be as simple as increasing spine and back flexibility. Sport Yoga can help stretch & elongate the muscles in the torso. Becoming more bendy not only eases pain, but it also improves your posture

SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA – BRIDGE POSE

Benefits: Strengthens the thigh, glute, hip, and back muscles. Stretches the hip flexors, chest, and neck. Improves circulation of blood flow due to its inverted characteristics, and promotes spinal awareness.

Instructions: From a supine position, bend the knees to place both feet on the ground,
hip distance apart. Begin the movement at the tailbone with a posterior pelvic rotation. Engaging the muscles of the pelvic floor and lower core, start to lift the hips off the ground, one vertebra at a time. Brace the shoulders down the back so there is plenty of room in the cervical spine, and lift the chin away from the chest. Feel a strong glute and core connection as the quadriceps lift towards the sky.

Variations: If a student is uncomfortable, a folded blanket can be placed underneath the shoulders to provide more space for the neck. Feet can be placed further apart or closer together for variations of muscular engagement.

REVERSE TABLE

Benefits: Strengthens quadricep, hip, core, shoulder, neck, and arm muscles. Increases mobility of shoulder rotation, hip flexors, and wrists. Promotes full body engagement and stability.

Instructions: Start in a seated position with the knees bent, feet hip distance apart, and place hands slightly behind shoulder blades. Spread the fingertips wide and press firmly throughout the hand. Draw the shoulders back and down to engage back muscles as the hips start to lift off the ground. Keep a strong engagement in the core with a posterior tilt of the pelvis, working towards a straight line from the shoulders to the hips. Chest lifts towards the sky by retracting the shoulder blades. Your neck is strong and lengthened with an upward gaze.

Variations: Shoulder rotation can be explored in various positions. For example, fingers can be turned forwards, sideways, or backward to gain awareness of shoulder mobility and strength.

URDHVA DHANURASANA – WHEEL POSE

Benefits: Strengthens leg, core, back, and arm muscles. Stretches out the anterior muscular line of the body. Exercises vestibular system. Increases mobility of the shoulders, spine, and hips.

Instructions: Begin in a supine position and bend the knees to place the feet on the ground, about hip distance apart. Bend the elbows and lift the elbows towards the sky, with as much shoulder flexion as needed to bring the palms of the hands flat to the ground, with the fingertips towards the feet. Slowly move step by step with awareness. Engage the core and brace the shoulders using the back muscles to lift the head and rotate the top of the head to the ground. In a strong motion, press into all extremities to lift the torso and hips towards the sky, lengthening through the spine and hips. Work on reaching the chest through the arms and activating all spinal muscles and glutes to open up the backbend.

Variations: A regression of this posture is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose). A progression of this posture is to lift one limb off the ground.

SKYDIVER POSE

Benefits: Strengthens the posterior muscular chain of the body. Increases spinal mobility and awareness. Stretches the abdominal and chest muscles. Promotes strong postural muscles.

Instructions: From a prone position, engage the posterior muscular chain of the body. Bend the knees and lift the heels towards the sky. The focus of this posture is to keep the frontal hip bones pressing into the ground while lifting the knees and the ribcage off the ground. Use the strength of the glutes to lift the knees higher, and pull the chest forward to lengthen the spine while creating a backbend. Retract the shoulder blades and lift the sternum to create more arch in the thoracic spine, using the back muscles to guide the heart forward. The back of the neck is long and the gaze is downward.

Variations: Movement is experienced through a capable range of motion. It is important to note that the neck does not overextend and instead it is the mid back that is creating more arch. Extremities can be in various positions for alternatives to posture. For example, the legs can extend back or the arms can extend forward.

URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA – UPWARD FACING DOG

Benefits: Stretches the anterior muscular chain of the body. Strengthens the leg, glute, core, and upper body muscles. Improves mobility and active range of motion in the thoracic spine. Increases mobility of wrists and ankles.

Instructions: This pose is usually entered into from a low push up position. At the bottom
of a push-up, with the fingertips wide and the hands planted firmly into the ground, brace the shoulder blades down the back and engage the shoulder muscles. Use a pull from the hands to guide the chest through the arms as the elbows extend and straighten out. Push through the toes to roll over to the tops of the feet. Keep a strong contraction in the glute and core muscles to keep the hips lifting off the ground and the lower back long. The focus of this posture is to create lift, length, and strength in the spinal muscles.

Variations: A regression of this pose is to lower the knees. A progression of this pose is to lift one foot off the ground. Movement is experienced through a capable range of motion.

DOWNWARD FACING DOG HIP OPENER

Benefits: Increases mobility of external rotators of the hip. Stretches hamstring, hip flexor, and lateral muscles. Strengthens shoulder and back muscles. Promotes core awareness and neuromuscular activation.

Instructions: Begin in Downward Facing Dog, with the fingertips wide and the hands pressing firmly into the ground. The focus of this pose is to keep a strong upper back with the frontal shoulders facing the mat. Brace the shoulder blades down the back. Start to lift one leg towards the sky and bend the floating knee. With core engagement, open up the hip of the lifted leg to stack the hip on top of the supporting leg. Move through a comfortable range of motion keeping the knee bent and lifting towards the sky.

Variations: Pose can be experienced through a comfortable and mobile range of motion.

WILD THING

Benefits: Strengthens leg, hip, core, back, and upper body muscles. Promotes muscular awareness and mobility through movement. Improves active range of motion in thoracic spine and shoulder joints. Stretches anterior muscular chain of the body.

Instructions: Beginning in Downward Facing Dog, extend one hip and lift the leg towards the ceiling, bending at the knee joint. The focus of this posture is to move slow with strength and control. The floating leg keeps opening up the hip joint as the weight of the posture loads into a unilateral side. While the leg starts to move towards the other side of the mat, lift the hand on the same side to rotate the shoulder and with control flip the body into a backbend by pivoting the supporting foot around. The toes and fingertips face in opposite directions. The hip flexors extend with a posterior tilt of the pelvis and the chest reaches through the arms in the backbend.

Variations: Movement is experienced through a comfortable range of motion and can be held where the student is comfortable. A progression of this posture is to move all the way into a full wheel pose.

HALASANA – PLOW POSE

Benefits: Opens up the mobility of the thoracic and cervical spine. Strengthens the erector spinae and core muscles. Stretches the upper back and hip muscles. Promotes spinal awareness.

Instructions: From a supine position, pick the head up to lengthen the cervical spine and rest the back of the head back on the ground. Use the muscles below the shoulders to depress the shoulder blades, creating lengthened space around the neck. With the legs softly bent, use the core muscles to lift the legs towards the sky and in a controlled manner lift the hips off the ground. One vertebra at a time, with core engagement, continue to lift the hips higher towards the sky and work towards stacking the hips over the shoulders. Movement can be held at any range of motion of mobility. Keep the neck in a neutral posture and actively engage the shoulder muscles to support the weight of the posture. Feet can move all the way behind head only if there is neuromuscular engagement through the core and back muscles.

Variations: Posture can be held at any degree of mobility with control. A regression of the posture is to place a block underneath the hips and lift the legs towards the sky with the hips resting on the block.

UPPER BACK RESTORATIVE WITH BLOCK

Benefits: Stretches the anterior muscular chain of the body. Promotes relaxation and breath awareness. Opens the mobility of the thoracic and cervical spine. Brings attention to postural muscles.

Instructions: Begin in a seated position and place a block on the mat, perpendicular to the length of the mat, in an area where the block will rest underneath the shoulder blades. Make sure the legs are extended and the pelvis is in a neutral position. Gently lean back until the shoulder blades are set on top of the block surface. Lay the head all the way back to the mat and relax the arms out to the side, palms up. Lengthen throughout the cervical spine as the shoulders subtly retract. This allows for the spine to bend back with support in a restorative posture.

Variations: If student experiences lack of mobility in the upper back, a block can be placed underneath the head to regress the curve of the backbend. Block can be moved to below the shoulder blades, or aligned parallel to the spine.

Learn how to become a Sport Yoga Instructor. This program is a comprehensive online yoga teacher training program for fitness professionals who want to integrate yoga movements into their one-on-one training-group fitness or group exercise programs.  

Sport Yoga is a comprehensive online yoga teacher training program for yoga enthusiasts, personal trainers, current yoga instructors, and wellness professionals. Learn how you can quickly and easily add yoga to your fitness business and expand your career now.

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