Yoga offers a wide variety of effective back stretches.
Stretching routines such as yoga don't just loosen up tense muscles. Even a single session of stretching can improve circulation, according to a 2013 study published in "International Heart Journal." Whether you're new to yoga or a dedicated yogi, a good yoga class will offer several stretches to improve back circulation.
Poses for Beginners
For beginning yogis, Cat pose can help stretch your aching back. Get on your hands and knees, then arch your back, drawing your abdominal muscles in. Then relax your back, pushing your abs toward the floor and into Cow pose, alternating between the two positions for five to 10 seconds at a time. Next, try a Side Twist. Sit in a neutral position, such as on your knees, and slowly twist toward the right side until you feel a stretch in your back. Hold for 20 seconds, then twist to the left side. Finally, relax with Child's pose. Sit on your knees and extend your arms straight out, lowering your torso and head to the ground for 30 seconds.
After you've mastered a few basic poses, you can graduate to slightly more challenging ones. Try Downward-Facing Dog, during which you bend down, keeping your back straight, to touch the ground. Keep the balls of your feet on the floor, with both your torso and legs at diagonal angles to form an upside-down V-shape. Next, lie on your back and try Fish pose. With your legs straight and your head on the ground, arch your back, slightly lifting your torso, and hold for at least 30 seconds.
Poses for Experts
For yoga aficionados, adding a few more challenging poses to your daily repertoire can keep the blood in your back flowing. Try the Bow pose. Lie on your stomach, then lift up your torso and bend your legs, reaching back to grab your feet. Then try Plow pose. Lie on your back, then kick your legs back so your feet touch the floor behind your head. Only your head, neck and shoulders should remain on the floor.
Tips and Safety
As with any form of exercise, if any pose feels uncomfortable, steer clear of it or ask your instructor if there's a way to modify the pose to make it easier. Yoga places a strong emphasis on breathing, and your breaths should be coordinated with your movement. Focus on taking in long, slow breaths that puff out your stomach, then slowly exhaling and drawing in your stomach as you move.