Breath and Ribs relationship function, dysfunction, and exercises to help

Seated on Box Hands on Energetic Cuing of Breath, photo by Girl Squad

I am working with a teacher apprentice, who is ready to take her Pilates certification exam. She was doing her practice teaching hours with me, the exercise she was practice teaching was the Lean on the short box on the Reformer. It got us into a deep discussion about the placement in a seated position of the pelvis and ribs.

What tends to happen in most clients is lack of awareness how the ribs are stacking and the relationship to stability and mobility.

Why does this happen?

Most of the time in a seated position the clients are in sitting in front of their sits bones with a slight sway forward of the spine and the ribs splayed open in the front without the deep front line of fascia supported.

When the ribs are out of alignment and the vertical throughness can not be felt or sensed the muscles and fascia are not working efficiently which can cause pain, poor mechanics, and hinder the breath. The ribs need to be cued just like the pelvis.

The Ribs – Anatomy, Movement Theory, and Exercises

Hendrickson, pg. 155

Structure 12 ribs on each side. The first 7 are “true ribs” because they directly attach to the sternum. Ribs 8-10 articulate below the sternum through cartilage, and the last two ribs are 11 & 12 called “floating ribs” because they have no attachment to the sternum.

20 Muscles that attach to the rib cage provide stability and movement to the trunk, pelvis, head, neck, and arms and assist in respiration.

FUNCTION: serves as the protection to the lungs and heart and as attachment sites for the muscles. Its movement increases thoracic volume for respiration.

MOVEMENT: The chest can expand in three directions: vertically: owing to the contraction of the diaphragm, and in the transverse and anterior-to-posterior direction due to movement of the ribs. The lateral aspect of the ribs elevate during inspiration and lowers during expiration.

WEAKNESS: Weakness of the extension of the upper thoracic spine and the middle trapezii prevents straightening of the upper back and decreases of the ability of the chest to expand.

Pilates teachers, the muscle work to to facilitate breath is upper back extension and mid back work. Can you think of the Pilates series that can assist in these areas?

Here’s two that come to mind:

Chest Expansion on the Reformer and Tower
Arms Pulling Straps on Reformer

Let’s look at it from an ENERGETIC POINT OF VIEW, mindful movement and intention.

“A direct quote from Joseph Heller, “The meaning of the word inspiration is ‘draw in spirit: not only to inhale oxygen but to be filled with – or in touch with – spirit. Breathe is our prime connection with our life force”. Green, pg. 44

Joseph Pilates, in his book Return to Life talks a great deal about the breathe. “Above all else learn how to breath correctly”.

“When the position of ribs is changed breathing changes…getting more air into the lungs and getting it moving faster is going to change the chemistry of every cell in the body.” Greene, pg. 44

Breathe is responsive: “We breathe automatically, but breath can be influenced by and is reflective of changes in consciousness, feelings and thoughts.” Hackney, pg. 51

“Healing of the Body-Mind is directly connected with restoring full functioning respiration.” Hackney pg. 52

I love teaching breath at the beginning and ending of classes. It gounds the clients, it allows them to slow down their mind, and create space physically and trust in themselves.

Examples of Exercises of Breath Work

Breathing seated on a Box
Breathing forward folding on an arc or box
Breathing with constructive relaxation position supine with knees bent
Breathing prone head turned to one side (make sure do to both sides)
Breathing side lying or even in a mermaid position on the chair or reformer

The Balance of the Diaphragm

The diaphragm attachments tent to thicken with chronic tension, which is often due to rounded-shoulders posture, lack of aerobic exercise, shallow breathing from emotional tension, disease processes that cause difficultly breathing such as asthma, or chronic hypomobility of the costovertebral joints. Chronic tension in the diaphragm adds significantly to the hypomobility of the spine and to thoracic kyphosis. Tension in the diaphragm pulls the muscle fiber toward the midline and pulls the thoracic cage forward. Hendrickson, pg. 180-101

I have some beautiful hands on tactile cues and verbal cues to help clients with the resetting of the diaphram.

Upcoming teacher virtual workshop and teacher classes coming mid-September. Click here to join my mailing list.

Centered by Madeline Black Making Connections by Peggy Hackney
Massage and Manual Therapy for Orthopedic Conditions by Thomas Hendrickson
Structural Integration and Energy Medicine by Jean Louise Green

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: