Quite a few people in my life have been complaining about upper back pain lately. Worry not: there's yoga for that!
Quite a few students this week have asked me integrate shoulder opening postures into the class to help ease their upper back pain. What might be a little surprising to hear is that stretching out the shoulders won't do much to help you with upper back pain in the long term - it's actually chest openers that will. Bear in mind that the upper back pain I'm referencing here is in the muscles rather than the spine (eg. in the case of scoliosis).
Many of us spend our days at desks or computers with our shoulders hunched forward. This posture over-stretches the muscles in the upper back over time, and to protect themselves from the constant strain they become stiff and consequently spasm-ey/painful. When our shoulders are rolled forward over time our chest muscles have little opportunity to lengthen and thus will continue to pull your shoulders forward unless you stretch them out.
Heart openers like baby cobra/cobra, upward facing dog, and camel (virtually any backbend!) will help you open your chest and release all that tightness. If your chest is really tight, even making a fist with your hands behind your back and rolling your shoulders back can help to stretch your chest muscles out.
If you suffer from upper back pain, perhaps it's just time to open your heart. x