Opening the Rib Cage
Years ago I was a rabbit mouth breather, short and shallow. Stress was the name of the game. I would often find myself shallow breathing or holding my breath in a not so good way and stressfully lifting my feet off the floor. I had a lot of myofacial pain and discomfort (all the tender points for fibromyalgia). Not surprising since I was starving my body of oxygen in an unhealthy way. I began exploring opening the rib cage …
I started going to a chiropractor and he recommended yoga. I looked at the book he handed me, it was a Shivanada style yoga. I hadn’t made peace with my body, mind, breath or God. I found a book that didn’t go into the spiritual aspect of yoga. Richard Hittleman had a book out Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan (1972 version) and I used that. I made a 28 day commitment to practicing yoga every day. Go figure – it began to change my life. The one thing I noticed was that there was no attention to alignment. I found BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga (1979 version). Mr. Iyengar went to the other extreme, total alignment, suggestions for helping to find comfort in the pose, but the language was very stern. I needed a teacher and had found enough comfort in my body that I was able to attend a class. I hid in the back, but I went. This started in the early 80s.
So – what was the first order of business? Learning how to breath. That’s right, I had to re-learn how to breath. It was painful at times, most times. As my rib cage began to open and unlock, a lot of pent up “molecules of emotion” came to the surface. Meditation began entering my life. I had been given a TM mantra as a child, I began looking at Thich Nhat Hanh’s work – talk about Pandora’s box. I was fortunate enough to find a local Vipassana Meditation Ashram. Meditation allowed me to create a safe place for the issues in my tissues to begin to release. It got much easier over time. I began to notice that when I stopped struggling, these issues resolved themselves effortlessly. That’s not to say I don’t still struggle – I do, but I have that memory of the release without struggle, allowing the sensation to arise, stay for some time and then pass into nothingness. The struggle is what causes us pain, not the issue necessarily, if we allow it space. Out of that place of allowing comes the nugget of wisdom, the light bulb moment.
CAUTION: Check with your health professional before beginning this or any new practice, especially if you have issues with your breath/lungs or heart.
Ways to Begin Opening the Rib Cage
Arrange yourself in a table position on your hands and knees, you can place extra padding under the knees and blocks under the hands if your wrists are tight.
Begin by INHALING – drop the belly and allow the spine curve – reach the head and tail toward the ceiling.
As you start EXHALING lift the belly – reach the head and tail toward the floor.
Do this at lease 6 breaths.
Take a couple folded blankets or towels and place them on your mat. You want two piles, one under the knees and one supporting the mid to upper back. Be sure to be above the floating ribs. Some folks will also need a rolled towel to support the neck. Rest in this pose following the breath in and out starting with working toward 5 minutes. If you can only do one minute, do one minute, work slowly and patiently to increase your time in this position.
Sidelying over a Small Bolster
Take the pile of blankets or towels that was under your rib cage and place it under your left arm/upper side rib cage, have the left arm in a T-position. Begin to reach your right arm over your head, take your time and move slowly. If you find an area of sensation, observe it for a couple of breaths, back out a little and then begin moving toward/over the head again. Breathe fully into your armpit chest. Start with 5 breaths and increase as you are able. Support your head with your hands to roll off of the supports. Rest and observe for a couple of minutes and then do the other side. This side can be very different from the other. Just notice the differences.