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BREATH SERIES

The Complete Yoga Breath—Step 3—Ribcage

Complete Yoga Breath with Sound!

Links to Breath series

Click images below for detailed instructions.

Breathe FROM the larynx to inhale and exhale for the Complete Yoga Breath
Larynx
Breathing

Abdominal breathing for the Complete Yoga Breath - fills the lower part of the lungs
Abdominal
Breathing

Ribcage Breathing - Helps Asthma - fills the middle of the lungs
Ribcage
Breathing

Collarbone Breathing - Fills the top of the lungs
Collarbone
Breathing

SUKH-PURVAK VARIATION
Sukh-Purvak
Variation

Traditional Buddhist Breath Meditation
Buddhist
Breath
Meditation

Sing or Speak with Power.
How To Sing
or Speak
with Power

Ellekari, a 4-year-old child, learns how to breathe into a soprano trombone.
How To Blow
Your Own Horn

Ribcage Breathing 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.

This breathing technique “opens” the center of the body. You will feel more power in your breathing when this stage is done correctly. This expands the entire chest cavity, fills the middle of the lungs with air, and frees the heart from pressure. There is more resonance to the voice when the ribcage is open and relaxed, which is an invaluable technique for singers and speakers.

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“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 RIBCAGE

It'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.

This step of the Complete Yoga Breath is the most important for anyone with respiratory problems. It is very healing for anyone with asthma. In fact, if you have asthma, you should definitely learn this stage of the breathing and also see a chiropractor for adjustments (well known to help people with asthma). Find a chiropractor who uses a gentle instrument called an adjuster, then there is no need to crack with the hands.

Practice this ribcage breathing separately from Step 2 (Diaphragm). When you feel that you have this right, take the first three steps—the larynx, diaphragm, and ribcage—and combine them in one long breath. After this, there is only one step left to learn, the Chest-Collarbone Breath.

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