Remember how Mom was always after you to stop slumping? She had a point! Our spines take a lot of abuse. Not only do they have to defy gravity, but they support us as we execute all sorts of potentially compromising movements: leaning forward to tie shoelaces, stretching sideways to grab something just out of reach, twisting around to look at what’s going on in the back seat. They sometimes have to put up with years of abuse, compensating for a repeated asymmetric stress like carrying a heavy handbag on one shoulder or hoisting a toddler on one hip. After a while, these stresses have a cumulative effect, resulting in compression, weakness, and pain.
The daily stress of modern life also takes its toll on the back, usually in the form of chronic muscle tension. In my stress reduction classes, people often ask me if there’s anything they can do to relieve tightness and pain in the upper back, neck and shoulders.
Viniyoga techniques of breathing, contraction and release, and axial extension can help to alleviate pain and tension in the back and also build muscle strength and improve alignment to help prevent further injury. Here is a basic Viniyoga sequence that incorporates these techniques: