This is another step that takes more time to learn. It is always more difficult to learn something you have never done before. Be patient. There is no rush. And don’t give up. This is a powerful breath technique for healing respiratory ailments. This is called Ribcage Breathing because your ribcage quite literally moves in and out sideways like an accordion and the lower ribs float out with the breath. You will feel this as you practice. The most difficult part of this is usually the shoulders. Most people lift their elbows and shoulders. This is incorrect. Your elbows move out sideways, not up. If your elbows and shoulders are moving up, you are also tense. Tension is the last thing you want to experience with this breath technique!
HOW TO BREATHE WITH THE RIBCAGE
- Stand or sit in front of a mirror with your back straight. Imagine that your ribcage is an accordion that you are going to play.
- Place the palms of your hands lightly on your ribcage. Your fingers are stretched out (as Eugenia shows above). Also notice that her shoulders are not lifted or tense, but completely relaxed. Your little fingers should be touching the bottom ribs, while your fingertips seem to be holding your ribcage. Your thumbs are facing the armpits at the top of the ribcage. You can feel your entire ribcage with your fingers and if you move your elbows sideways, your ribcage is just like an accordion (it's the best image I've come up with). When you start this, let your fingers touch in the center of your solar plexus to give support to the elbows and arms. As you breathe, they will separate, following the ribcage naturally.
- Without pushing or pulling with force, simply let your fingers press lightly to feel how the ribcage expands and contracts like an accordion when you breathe. In this position, your ribcage is like an accordion you are holding from the center and then moving out to the side and back in again. You feel the ribcage expanding sideways (if you’re doing it right). You can also watch in a mirror how your fingers change position from your ribcage moving back and forth sideways.
- With exhalation, the ribcage returns to its normal position. You will feel this easily with your fingers. With time, you will feel that your ribcage actually does move out sideways and back in.
- Inhale again and concentrate only on the movement of your ribcage. Exhale and feel how the ribcage relaxes into its normal position.
“The lower ribs are controlled by the diaphragm which draws them slightly downward, while other muscles hold them in place and the intercostal muscles force them outward, which combined action increases the mid-chest cavity to its maximum. In addition to this muscular action, the upper ribs are also lifted and forced outward by the intercostal muscles, which increases the capacity of the upper chest to its fullest extent.”—Yogi Ramacharaka
HOW TO STRETCH YOUR RIBCAGEIt's important to exercise your ribcage to be able to use it properly for the Complete Yoga Breath. Here's a great way to do this (modified from Ramacharaka):
- Stand erect.
- Place your hands, one on each side of the body, as high up under the armpits as you can conveniently. Your thumbs reach for your back, your palms are on the side of your chest and your fingers are over the breast.
- Inhale a Complete Breath.
- Retain the air for a short time.
- Gently squeeze your sides while slowly exhaling.
- Practice the Lung Cleansing Breath (part of the Breath Techniques for Healing).
- Use moderation in this exercise. Do not overdo it.