Of the many different styles of yoga sequence, this one is hard to beat. Not only is it incredibly effective at improving thoracic mobility, it’s also deeply relaxing. All you have to do, is put yourself in the poses and breathe.
In this sequence, we practise 6 simple poses to improve thoracic mobility. The thoracic is the mid part of the back, in between the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) sections. If you regularly practice activities that round this part of the spine, over time, it’s likely to become stiff. This includes riding bikes, driving cars, boxing, playing hockey and working at the computer.
THORACIC MOBILITY SEQUENCE TO KEEP YOU SUPPLE
This relaxing sequence should feel amazing. It’s just the thing if you’ve been training hard. You’ll need a couple of yoga blocks or a bolster, and a mat if you have one. Blocks are super cheap and great for supporting you in passive stretches like these.
DURATION OF POSES: Work up from 40 seconds (roughly 4 breaths) to 3 minutes (roughly 10 breaths) on each side, stopping sooner if you experience any pain.
BREATHING: Practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing throughout, roughly doubling the length of your exhalations. You can start by counting in for 2 or 3, and out for 4 or 6. But this is just a guide and as soon as you get a feel for the extended exhalations, you can let go of counting.
1. CHILD’S POSE
Let’s begin in Child’s pose. Come to all fours, touch your big toes together and bring your knees a comfortable distance apart. Reach your arms out in front of you, rest your forehead on the mat and completely relax. If your bottom doesn’t touch your heels, you can put a pillow or a bolster under your hips.
Walk your fingers all the way over to the left-hand side of your mat to bring a gentle stretch into your right shoulder. Hold the pose for 10 breaths. Then walk your hands to the right-hand side of your mat and hold for another 10 breaths. Come back to centre.
2. PUPPY POSE
Next, we’ll come into Puppy pose. Come back up to all fours, check that your knees are hip-width apart and directly under your hips, and that your feet are also hip-width apart, toes point straight back. Reach your hands forward and rest your forehead on the mat. Hold the pose for 10 slow breaths—feeling the stretch in your lats and shoulders.
3. HALF-TWISTED SCORPION
Next, we’ll come into a deep shoulder stretch. Lie down on your front. Bring your left arm straight out to the side and slide it forward about 6 inches. Place your right hand flat on the mat in line with your chest. Bend your right leg, twist your body open to the right and try to bring your right foot flat on the mat behind your left leg. In this thoracic mobility twist, you should feel the stretch all the way from your wrist, through your shoulder and down to your lower back. Hold the pose for 10 breaths on each side.
Bring your hands underneath your shoulders, engage your abs and push back up to all fours.
4. SUPPORTED BRIDGE
Let’s come down onto our backs for Supported Bridge. You’ll need a block for this pose. Bend your knees and bring your feet directly underneath your knees, hip-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Then lift your hips and position the block on the low, medium or full height directly under your sacrum. (I have it at max height in this image.) Turn your palms up to the sky to bring a gentle stretch into the chest (pec major). And hold the pose for 10 breaths. Feel your belly expand like a balloon on the inhalation and visualise your hip flexors letting go of tension on every exhalation.
5. SUPPORTED RECLINING BUTTERFLY
For our final pose, we’ll come into Supported Reclining Butterfly—a passive chest and groin stretch that is amazing for improving thoracic mobility and opening up the hips. You’ll need a couple of blocks for this pose or you can lie a bolster along your spine. In the picture above, I have one block on medium height, lengthways, under my shoulder blades and I’m resting the back of my head on a block at full height. You may also want to put a cushion under each knee and play around with the most comfortable distance of your feet—bringing them closer to your hips to intensify the stretch. Turn your palms up to the sky to feel a gentle stretch across your chest and relax into the pose for several minutes.
6. FINAL RESTING POSE
We’ll finish in Final Resting pose. Lie down on your back. Bring your feet out as wide as the mat and let them fall open. Relax your neck and shoulders. Rest your arms by your sides—palms face up. And close your eyes. Ideally, stay in this posture for 3-5 minutes to allow all the benefits of the practice to sink in.
Now you can move back into your day.
YIN YOGA FOR FAST RECOVERY
Technically-speaking, this type of yoga is called yin yoga. In this style, we typically hold poses from 40 seconds up to several minutes. This is a technique that is also practised by martial artists, gymnasts and ballet dancers. It’s particularly effective for athletes, especially when combined with more dynamic or yang-style sequences, because of its unparalleled ability to increase flexibility and release the deepest layers of tension.
Here is a QuickGuide that you can save to your phone for reference. Please let me know if you have any questions about the poses.