Many people hold stress and tension in their upper backs, leading to tightness and pain. And although playing sports and lifting weights are good for your body, some activities can leave your upper back muscles feeling sore and stiff. Release tension and stretch tight upper back muscles with the ancient practice of yoga. Just a few poses performed when you're feeling particularly tense or after a workout can immediately help you feel better.
One-half of a pose combo called Cat-Cow, Cat pose is so-named because it mimics the shape of a scared cat's arched back. Rounding your back and pressing your hands into the mat spreads the shoulder blades and stretches all the muscles of the upper back.
Begin on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Exhale as you round your back, pressing through your palms and widening across your upper back. Tuck your pelvis lightly and bring your chin toward your chest. Hold here for a second and return to a neutral spine. Repeat as many times as desired.
Full Eagle pose is a balancing posture performed on one leg; but there's no reason you can't do just the top half of the pose, which is a powerful opener for the upper back muscles and an easy pose to do anywhere when you're feeling upper back strain.
Stand up tall with your feet about hip-distance apart. Extend your arms out in front of you and cross your left arm over your right at the elbows. Intertwine your forearms and press your palms together in front of your face with your hands perpendicular to your face. Raise your arms up so your upper arms are parallel to the floor and press your elbows away from you to increase the stretch in your upper back. Hold for several deep breaths. Then, unwind your arms and repeat the posture, this time crossing your right arm over your left.
If your shoulders are tight and you can't intertwine your forearms, simply reach and grasp hold of your opposite shoulders.
One of the 26 postures performed in a Bikram yoga class, Rabbit pose lengthens the spine and stretches the muscles of the back, arms and shoulders.
Get into Child's pose with your knees together and your arms extended behind you. Grab onto your heels with your hands, round your back and pull your forehead toward your knees. Place the top of your head on the ground. Exhale as you lift your hips up to the ceiling and roll onto the crown of your head. Bring your forehead to touch your knees, or as close as possible. Pull on your heels to fully extend your arms. Press through your upper back to broaden your shoulder blades. Hold the pose for five to 10 deep breaths.