5 Asanas to Ease Upper Back and Shoulder Tension

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Hello there! I’m Josephine, and today, I want to share with you a journey towards tranquility and strength, focusing particularly on easing the all-too-common tension in our upper back and shoulders. In our fast-paced lives, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves bogged down by stress, often manifesting as a nagging stiffness in these areas. But fear not, yoga can be a fantastic solution!

Yoga, with its millennia-old wisdom, offers more than just physical benefits; it’s a bridge to a balanced mind and a harmonious spirit. Among its vast array of asanas (poses), there are some specifically designed for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders. These asanas not only soothe your muscles but also enhance your overall well-being.

In this piece, I’ll guide you through 5 specific asanas for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders. Each of these poses has been chosen for their effectiveness in targeting the areas where stress loves to hide. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or just starting, these asanas are a great addition to your practice. So, roll out your mat, and let’s embark on this rejuvenating journey together!

Understanding Upper Back and Shoulder Tension

man touching forehead feeling stressed and exhausted
Understanding Upper Back and Shoulder Tension

Causes of Tension in the Upper Back and Shoulders

In our quest to alleviate upper back and shoulder tension, it’s crucial to understand what causes it in the first place. One of the primary culprits is our modern lifestyle, which often involves prolonged periods of sitting, especially hunched over computers or smartphones. This posture, over time, leads to muscle strain, imbalances, and, ultimately, tension in the upper back and shoulders. Moreover, stress and emotional tension can also contribute significantly, as many of us unconsciously tighten these muscles in response to mental or emotional strain.

The Role of Posture and Lifestyle

Now, let’s talk about posture and lifestyle – two factors that play a pivotal role in either exacerbating or alleviating back and shoulder tension. Poor posture, especially while sitting or standing, can lead to muscle fatigue and tension. Conversely, maintaining good posture helps distribute weight evenly and reduces strain. Similarly, a sedentary lifestyle can weaken back muscles and increase tension, while a balanced lifestyle that includes regular movement and exercise can significantly improve back health and reduce discomfort.

Incorporating specific yoga asanas into our daily routine is an excellent way to alleviate neck and shoulder tension as well. Yoga not only helps in improving posture but also promotes a more active and mindful lifestyle, contributing to overall back and shoulder health. These postures encourage relaxation and stress relief, which are essential for addressing chronic tension areas.

Preparatory Practices for Yoga Asanas

Importance of Warming Up

Before we dive into the asanas, let’s talk about the importance of warming up. I can’t stress enough how vital a proper warm-up is to any yoga practice. It prepares your body for the session ahead, increases blood flow, and reduces the risk of injury. Simple activities like shoulder rolls, neck stretches, and arm swings are great for loosening up the upper body. A gentle warm-up not only primes your muscles but also sets the tone for a mindful and focused yoga practice.

Breathing Techniques to Enhance Relaxation

Now, let’s focus on the breath – the essence of yoga. Breathing techniques, or pranayama, are powerful tools to enhance relaxation and deepen your yoga practice and also remove other issues like asthma and allergies. Before starting the asanas, try a few minutes of deep breathing or ‘Yogic Breath’. This breath technique helps to clear the mind, reduce stress, and bring your focus to the present moment. As you breathe deeply, you encourage a sense of calmness, preparing both your body and mind for the asanas that follow. Remember, in yoga, how we breathe is just as important as the physical practice. In this way, this approach helps enhance the lung capacity and makes our respiratory function work well.

Asana 1: Balasana (Child’s Pose)

man in a group of people practicing child pose
Asana 1: Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Steps to Perform Balasana

Let’s begin with Balasana, also known as Child’s Pose, a soothing and gentle asana that’s perfect for beginners. To get into Balasana, start by kneeling on your yoga mat with your toes together and knees hip-width apart. Exhale and lower your torso between your thighs, extending your arms forward. Rest your forehead on the mat and let your entire body release. Hold this pose for a few breaths, focusing on relaxing your back and shoulders with each exhale.

Benefits for Upper Back and Shoulders

Balasana is a wonderful pose for releasing tension in the upper back and shoulders. It gently stretches these areas, helping to ease any stiffness and pain. Additionally, this pose promotes a sense of calm and helps to alleviate stress, which can often contribute to muscular tension. It’s a great pose to return to throughout your practice, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or in need of a restful moment.

Asana 2: Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

How to Execute Bhujangasana

Next up is Bhujangasana, commonly known as Cobra Pose. This asana is a bit more dynamic and offers a wonderful stretch for the upper back and shoulders. To perform it, lie flat on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders and elbows close to your body. Inhale as you press into your palms, lifting your chest off the floor. Engage your back muscles and keep your shoulders away from your ears. Hold this pose for a few breaths, feeling the stretch in your chest and shoulders, then gently release on an exhale.

Targeted Areas and Benefits

Bhujangasana is particularly beneficial for the upper back and shoulders. It strengthens these areas while also increasing flexibility. This pose is ideal for counteracting the slouching posture we often find ourselves in due to desk jobs or phone usage. Additionally, Cobra Pose can help in opening up the chest and improving breathing, further contributing to relaxation and stress relief.

Asana 3: Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Performing Uttanasana Correctly

Moving forward, let’s explore Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Bend. This pose offers an excellent stretch for the entire back, including the shoulders. Begin by standing straight with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale, and as you exhale, hinge at the hips to fold forward, keeping your spine long. If possible, place your hands on the ground or grab your elbows. Let your head hang freely, releasing any tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold for a few breaths, then slowly rise back up on an inhale.

Its Impact on Upper Back and Shoulders

Uttanasana is a fantastic asana for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders. As you fold forward, you allow gravity to work on your back, helping to stretch and release the muscles in these areas. It also improves the flexibility of the spine and can alleviate stress and fatigue. This pose is especially beneficial for those who spend long hours sitting or standing, as it helps to counteract the effects of these postures.

Asana 4: Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

back view of a man practicing cow face pose indoors
Asana 4: Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Step-by-Step Guide to Gomukhasana

Now, let’s delve into Gomukhasana, also known as Cow Face Pose. This asana is excellent for deeply stretching the shoulders and upper back. To perform Gomukhasana, sit on your mat with your legs extended. Bend your knees and stack your right knee over your left. Then, reach your left arm overhead and bend the elbow to bring your hand down your back. Reach your right arm behind and up, trying to clasp your fingers. If your hands don’t meet, use a yoga strap or towel. Hold for a few breaths, then release and switch sides.

Advantages for Shoulder and Upper Back Relief

Gomukhasana is particularly effective for releasing deep-seated tension in the shoulders and upper back. It helps in opening up the shoulder joints, improving flexibility, and reducing stiffness. This pose is also beneficial for correcting posture imbalances caused by one-sided activities like carrying a bag on one shoulder. Plus, it encourages a moment of introspection and calm, aiding in overall stress reduction.

Asana 5: Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

man doing eagle pose indoor
Asana 5: Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

Technique for Mastering Garudasana

Our final asana is Garudasana, known as Eagle Pose. This pose is a bit more challenging but incredibly effective for the upper back and shoulders. Begin by standing straight. Bend your knees slightly and cross your right thigh over your left, trying to hook your right foot behind your left calf. Extend your arms forward, cross your left arm over your right, and press your palms together. Keep your gaze forward and balance for a few breaths. Unwind gently and repeat on the other side.

Focusing on Upper Back and Shoulder Areas

Garudasana is excellent for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders. The unique arm position in this pose stretches the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back. Additionally, the balancing aspect of the pose helps to improve focus and concentration. Regular practice of Garudasana can lead to better posture, reduced shoulder tension, and an overall sense of balance in both body and mind.


As we conclude this journey through the world of yoga and its profound impact on relieving upper back and shoulder tension, let’s take a moment to reflect. These five asanas – Balasana, Bhujangasana, Uttanasana, Gomukhasana, and Garudasana – each play a unique role in alleviating discomfort, enhancing flexibility, and promoting overall well-being. Incorporating these poses into your daily routine can create a significant positive impact on your physical health, especially for those of us grappling with the stresses of modern life.

Remember, regular practice is key. While the immediate relief these asanas provide is palpable, their long-term benefits in terms of posture improvement, strength, and stress reduction are even more remarkable. Yoga is not just about the poses; it’s a holistic approach to living, bringing together the body, mind, and spirit in harmony.

Keep exploring, keep practicing, and most importantly, listen to your body. It’s the greatest guide you’ll ever have on this journey. Namaste!

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