9 Poses to Loosen Your Stiff Back

Ease back pain and refresh your energy with this sequence to help you feel more spacious and breathe deeper.
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Feeling tight in your upper or mid-back? Yoga poses, combined with focused breathing techniques, can open up those sticky spots in your body, while expanding your chest and sides to help you breathe easier and more fully. This sequence by yoga teacher Dana Slamp shows you the way.

Dana Slamp in a Crescent Lunge variation. 

Dana Slamp in a Crescent Lunge variation. 

Most people conceptualize their lungs as only living in the front of the chest—thanks in part to the two-dimensional anatomy charts we glanced at briefly back in high school biology. But your lungs are three dimensional and quite movable, and, as it turns out, the most oxygen-receptive part of your lungs is located in your back. Our lungs expand into our sides, distend our bellies with the downward contraction of the diaphragm, lift our collarbones, and yes, expand our backs when we take a full inhalation. Practicing this “global breathing” can support lung and heart health, allowing for greater oxygen saturation in the blood.

see also Poses for Your Back

The bronchial passages are like an inverse tree that expand down into the lower lungs, and the lungs are tilted slightly to make room for your heart. Thanks to this tilt, there is simply more “lung space” near the lower part of the thoracic spine, filled with the microscopic alveoli responsible for gas exchange. In fact, lying on your belly has been shown in a hospital pilot study to increase the oxygen saturation by ten percent!

A Sequence and Breathwork for Back Pain

In this sequence, take full advantage of your lungs with stretchy asana designed to open your intercostal muscles and oxygen-receptive lower back lungs. Then, enjoy a sweet and accessible breathing practice to boost your immunity and create coherence in your mind and body.

Suggested props: One folded blanket and two pillows or a bolster.

see also Stand Taller With These Side Body Stretches