The rib "cage" is composed of 12 thoracic vertebra , 24 ribs connected thru cartilage including 1 "floating" rib at the bottom, a breast bone that protects the heart, and 2 clavicles that form the "collar bones" and work with the upper arm bones, shoulder blades and sternum ( breastbone) to create multidimensional movement from the heart out. These bones all work together for protection of the vital organs inside ( lungs and heart) and for supporting the expression, communication and creating tasks we choose to do with the arms and hands. Our heart is located just slightly to the left of the breast bone and more toward the center of the body between the rt and lft lungs.
In an ideal situation we reach, shrug, pull, throw, grasp and express ourselves easily and without tension. Tension of the neck and shoulders are visible signs that this part of our body is not functioning well. Our bodies muscles operate under the "use it or lose it" theory so if we find ourselves slumped often or sitting too long and holding shapes that are not balanced in front and back and side to side muscle tensions develop that can really bring pain, inhibit breathing, and limit joy. The good news is there are exercises you can do you reverse this effect and they are relatively simple. Here are a few:
1. Begin with just sitting up straight. Feel for a natural curve in your low back, and in your neck and adjust to find that first. Bring your attention to the bones listed above. Start "tapping" along the collarbones and massaging the muscles of the arms and hands. This will bring more awareness to these parts and can greatly enhance your ability to re-adjust and maintain a tall vertical sitting posture for longer. Take breaks from your computer to do this once every hour. Set a timer if you need too.
2. From a sitting position, begin to feel the outline of the ribcage. Feel how the breath is moving the ribs and try to balance your breath thru both sides. This may take some very focused attention and practice. Breathe deeply into the sides to expand then exhale and gently squeeze your abdominal muscles to release fully. This deep breathing can open the spaces between the ribs ( intercostal muscles) and create a massage like movement deep into the layers of muscles. When you inhale visualize your diaghram moving down into your belly and expanding 360 degrees around you. Allow it to press down into the digestive organs and slowly return back up to it's dome like shape.
3. Place your attention on your collarbones. Draw them in your minds eye from the center "notch" of your throat all the way out to the end most tips. Stay there a little bit feeling where that part of you touches the space beyond your shoulder muscles. Gently tip forward and backward "pouring" your heart with it. You are traveling thru a balance point and beyond....so notice that spot you travel thru that feels balanced on both sides and between being tipped forward or back. It's a subtle balance to feel the shoulder blades pointing down the back and not pinched in but grounded slightly downward. Feel the strength of your back muscles slightly engaged continuously. This feeling is of "strong back and soft heart". This is a great metaphor for keeping the heart space open in a "feeling state".
4. A note: Moving these bones may stimulate emotions......allow it!!!! Feel to heal. Notice what the emotions are, do they stay around and linger or do they peak and valley? Breathe thru knowing that emotions are how we feel "life"....Try to not avoid feeling them and even if it's an emotion of sadness or grief it's really quite normal. Give yourself permission to feel it all. If you feel overwhelmed by the emotion know you can shift your attention back to just physical sensation at any time and ideally can feel both simultaneously as the art of being present without being "over taken" by the feeling body. Emotions are valuable information that guide us, connect us, and naturally show us a deep intelligence that can be accessed thru exploring and over time with practice. It's very normal to feel a bit vulnerable as the heart begins to speak thru feelings......as you allow yourself to feel without judging you begin to unwrap the hearts deepest gifts which is learning to love unconditionally beginning with YOU.
Here is a special Guided Heart Meditation called "Sovereignty" you can practice at home to begin the journey into unwrapping the gifts within and in this majestic part of the body.