Open your ribs, open your mind.

We all can use better shoulder, rib, and waist mobility for optimal breathing. I’m going to teach you a stretch that helps.

Side Bend: Standing up in your own personal version of “straight”, reach your arms over head and, clasping your hands, bend your body to the side. And, P.S. Don’t let your hips jut out to the side. Keep them anchored right above your feet.

Here’s a picture to help:

Feel good? Feel any tight spots in the waist, ribs, or shoulders? Nice. Keep working on it.

Now, find a wall. And using this new tool of objectivity, get yourself lined up so that, while your feet remain a few inches for the wall, your bottom (no tucking the pelvis!) your bra strap (or bro strap, gentlemen) and the back of your head are on the wall. Now, reach your arms over your head until your hands touch the wall overhead. Make sure someone places their thumb over the camera if they take your picture, just for consistency.

You might find that, keeping your body vertical, you aren’t able to get your arms up as you did in the first exercise. Also, make sure you didn’t tuck your pelvis when you thought you were dropping the ribs back to the wall (this is a pretty common body-confusion). See pic:

Now do that same side bend, using the wall to keep you in the correct alignment for the exercise.

How does being aligned during the exercise compare to when you thought you were aligned doing the exercise?

Objectivity is a fantastic tool that enable us to see better, how things really are. It is a lot easier not to look, I know, but to see something as it is, and not how you see it through the glasses of your personal experience, is the key to whole-body wellness.

Using tools like floors, walls, straight edges, and alignment markers will bring a level of awareness to your personal practice of movement. These tools keep us honest.

Now go play with the exercises and see how using the wall as tour guide helps reveal your actual muscular boundaries. See if you can travel across the distance that is separating you in your body from you in your mind. All of your yous should be in alignment with each other.

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separate us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.

Thomas Merton

Word.

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19 thoughts on “Open your ribs, open your mind.

    1. Not bad. Tight. Not vertical, maybe. But not bad 🙂 And look how open to changing your routine you are! All wonderful, healthy things!

  1. Wow…what a difference side bending in alignment makes! Breathing feels a bit harder for me as I draw my ribs back holding the pose, but my lungs feel so much more open afterwards. I forgot about doing this pose while in Ventura, so this was a nice reminder!

    1. Yay! I love using the wall as a tool…standing poses are tricky – default postures are so much easier to stabilize using incorrect patters (quads, psoas…) glad you enjoyed it. I was so stiff this morning doing it right out of bed. I’m off to do more shoulder openers! xoxo

  2. Great stretch. But here’s one for you (that I’ve wondered about for so so so so long): what if we can’t touch the wall without a rib thrust? The top of my shoulders hurt when I try to put my arms that way (and likewise lying (laying?) on the floor I can’t touch my hands down without bending my arms). What’s up with that? It feels like an awful compression, but is there some tightness in there that could be stretched? And how? Thanks for all the advice you give in your blog – I tell almost everyone I know about your DVDs/blog!

    1. When the ribs thrust with the arm reach, this is the spine distorting to make up for the lack of mobility in the shoulder. It is very (VERY) important to the health of the nervous system that you keep your ribs in place and work on actually opening the shoulder. The only way to get the shoulders to change is to work at the boundary of the shoulder tension – not thrust to hide the tension. If you have an extra hour and $15 extra dollars, I would recommend the Super Supple Shoulder webinar: http://restorativeexercise.com/2011/take-a-class-now/ It won’t be a waste of time or money. It will show you how to make progress in the shoulder girdle without digging your vertebrae into your spinal cord (what rib thrusting does…).

      Thanks for referring your friends and family! I appreciate the mouth-to-mouth spreading style of info!

  3. Wow. When doing these against the wall I get a loud (to my senses) click that seems like bone against bone somewhere around my left SI joint (while stretching to the right). I’ve been dealing with various pains in my left SI joint and going down the outside of my leg for about a year now. This was the first time I noticed that particular click. It doesn’t hurt but it’s very obvious. I know that my piriformis muscles are tight, especially the left one. I’ve been religiously doing the stretch you posted two days ago and it helps.

    I have to say, since I’ve been following your blog (I also have Aligned and Well for PF and backs – do the PF one religiously, too) my alignment is way better than it used to be. I’m still working hard to drop my ribs in front and back my hips up. Big improvement, though. Thanks again a million times.

    Abby

  4. I’ll vouch for the Supple Shoulders webinar. I feel like I’ve had a deep tissue massage every time I do that one. So awesome!

    Question, Katy: You didn’t mention that we won’t look as lovely and straight as you do in the pictures when we line ourselves up against the Guru Wall. When I get my ribs back against the wall, for example, my hyperkyphosis pulls my head and shoulders off the wall. So I assume (here’s the question) that we’re supposed to continue in the side stretch in that less-than-lovely position? And as we work on shoulder opening we’ll eventually be able to pull our heads back where they belong?

    Thanks for this stretch! I cleared a wall in my office so I can do it regularly now.

    I love the Merton quote too, btw!!

    Joni

  5. Thank you so much for all your posts. They are always exactly what I need! Question…is it possible to raise the arch of the foot? My nieces all have flat feet, and they are wearing orthodics (which I know won’t help much) and if so, what exercises should they do? Their Mom is a restorative yoga instructor…..

    Thanks so much

    Ceanne

    1. Ceanne, I corrected very flat feet by being Rolfed – a deep tissue bodywork series that changed my body alignment completely for the better!

  6. This was hard! To get my bra strap against the wall I feel like I have to hunch my back. Is that because I normally thrust my ribs? Is this the way I’m supposed to stand always?

    This exercise is going to take a lot of practice!

    1. What you are feeling is the amount of kyphosis you have currently in your thoracic spine, that you mask by thrusting your ribs. You need to also be working on your shoulders and chest as they would be very tight too. This is the correct standing position too, although you will need to do some (lots) of shoulder, chest, and neck work to be able to master it!
      Thanks for posting…all the way from Sweden!

    1. There are three photos – First and second are correct, third is incorrect (at the pelvis) although you might have your arms forward if that’s where your body is right now!

  7. I love all these exercises we are getting and they are all very exciting to me. I am having this confusion with what I’ve been taught about what an exercise routine looks like by the mainstream and what I should be doing according to you. I know very clearly what Fitness magazine would tell me to do on a daily/weekly basis, but I kinda need your version spelled out a bit more. Do you try to stretch everything everyday or is it more focusing one thing or another arbitrarily or what feels like it needs attention?? I also have about 10 lbs of baby weight that’s been hanging too long and I’m not sure if I should loose it like I did pre-Katy or not…

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