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Imagery Exercises for the Rib Cage in Breathing

This is an excerpt from Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery-3rd Edition by Eric N. Franklin.

  1. Breathing ribs: Imagine your inhalation floating outward in between your individual ribs, imparting a feeling of lift and lightness.
  2. Elastic intercostals: Imagine your inhalation expanding the muscles between your ribs, the intercostals. As you exhale, imagine these muscles releasing. Notice how an elastic image for the intercostals affects your breathing.
  3. Float and drop: As you inhale, imagine the body of the ribs being lifted while the joint heads slide down on the spinal and transverse facets. Since the joints are located at or near the spine, the feeling during inhalation is up in the front and on the side of the body, while in the back, the feeling is downward and close to the spine.
  4. Light and heavy rib heads: Imagine the rib heads sliding down on inhalation, making the rib bodies float up in counterpoint. Enhance the rib heads with some extra imaginary weight while the rib bodies become lighter. Imagine light rib heads and heavy bodies during exhalation.
  5. Balloon-supported ribs: On inhalation, imagine the rib bodies to be lifted upward by balloons while the rib heads slide down (figure 15.17). On exhalation, the rib bodies lower, and the rib heads slide up.
  6. Exhaling seesaw lift: During exhalation, as the ribs drop downward, feel them providing the spine with a sense of lift. You can use the image of a seesaw. As the ribs go down, the other end (the spine) is lifted.
  7. Spiral lift: The facet of the rib facing the transverse articulation is concave; the head of the rib facing the spine is more convex. This causes the rib to perform a slight spiral action as it moves up and down.
  8. Rib cage as an umbrella (supine, standing): Visualize the rib cage as an umbrella whose handle is in the pelvis, and whose point is the top of the spine. The shaft of the umbrella is aligned with the central axis. As you inhale, the umbrella opens and widens all around—front, back, up, down, and sideways. As you exhale, the umbrella closes toward the central axis. Practice this image three or four times, accompanying an exhalation with a sibilant hiss. (Exercise adapted from Lulu Sweigard.)
  9. Rib oars (supine): Imagine the interaction between the ribs and the spine to be like a rowing team propelling a slender boat through the water. The oars move in the opposite direction of the boat as the blades push though the water and transfer their leverage to the boat. On exhalation, the oars (ribs) move downward through the water’s resistance, imparting upward force to the boat (spine); on inhalation, the spine is embraced by the inflating lungs. In this way the ribs and lungs combine to create an upward push and expansion against the spine in exhalation and inhalation, respectively (figure 15.18).

Figure 15.17 Ribs supported by balloons on inhalation.
Figure 15.17 Ribs supported by balloons on inhalation.

Figure 15.18 The ribs can be seen to relate to the spine like oars. As you exhale, the rib-oars impart the spine with an upward supporting force.
Figure 15.18 The ribs can be seen to relate to the spine like oars. As you exhale, the rib-oars impart the spine with an upward supporting force.

More Excerpts From Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery 3rd Edition