I've heard Katy Bowman call the neck and shoulder region of our body the last frontier....and there is no doubt that what happens from the ground up impacts our entire movement machine. But there is one thing you can instantly change in your upper body regardless of what's going on down below.......drop your ribs. Actually there's a bunch of ways to say it, like soften your ribs, relax your chest down, back your ribs up....but one of my favourite ways to think about it is to just stop lifting them.
In fact you don't want to be muscling them down, that can create more tension. When people first working with me I often say to relax your ribs down by 5 or 10 % and you will already be making positive change. Katy describes it so well in Chapter 7 of Move Your DNA - Mouse Hands to Monkey Arms and so here is another great quote that fits in beautifully with this weeks class:
“Have you ever seen an older, grandmotherly woman shuffling along with her spine curved forward into a dowager’s hump? This forward curl of the upper spine is called hyperkyphosis, and many associate this posture with age or a deterioration of the bones of the spine. But .... most people are walking around with a hyperkyphotic spine, and have been for decades....(Katy then explains how we have a weakened capacity to hold our spines upright due to the limited nature of the daily movements required of us) It’s not a physiological mystery why or how our soft tissue has frozen parts of the neck, arm, and shoulder joints out in front of us. We literally live our lives there, and thus have adapted to this narrow and frequent use pattern.
Over time, this added weight out in front of the body increases the drag on the spine, causing it to spill over. Which is why parents, teachers, and other adults around the world instruct children regularly to stand up straight—a verbal cue that typically results in the retraction of the shoulder blades, and a lift of the chest and chin.
While these adjustments (chest up, shoulders back) reduce the forward-displacing loads to the spine, they don’t actually undo the curve; they just hide it. And, even worse, adjustments made to facilitate a temporary visual improvement actually introduce new curves in the opposite direction and compromise the mechanical leverage of the muscles that support the spine—all leading to an even greater curve over time.”
Excerpt From: Katy Bowman. “Move Your DNA.” iBooks.
So soften those ribs down. See if you can get your bottom ribs to line up vertically with your ASIS (you know those bony guys we often think of as our hip bones). I know that it does feel strange at first, so we'll talk next week about ways to alleviate that feeling. Some instant inspiration though is to notice any difference in uncomfortable feelings. So much of our back pain and shoulder tension is coming from the habitual rib lift. This same habit also limits your core function and can be throwing off your balance too. So make it a particular focus this week and see if not lifting your ribs can become your new normal.
The truly wonderful Petra Fisher just happened to make a fantastic video this week that is completely supportive of what we are doing in class! Thanks Petra!