Are you someone who struggles to get that 360 breath in? Are you somebody who’s more of a shallow breather – that when you take a deep inhale – your shoulders are constantly coming up into the ears? What is likely contributing to that is the fact that your ribs are very stiff. Your ribs have joints which a lot of people don’t realize – there are joints that connect to the sternum in the front, and joints that connect around the back to the vertebra and spine, and those joints just like any other joint in our body is meant to move! It’s a use it or lose it situation so the more we’re in this hunched forward position all the time, from being very sedentary, those ribs start to stiffen up and it also contributes to that more forward posture as well. We need to mobilize the ribs!
A great way to do that is foam rolling and fascia release. Finding where you have that stiff rib and taking time to roll it out is super helpful. What I always recommend for people before you begin the foam rolling is take five to ten deep breaths and pay attention to where you’re feeling it. Are you feeling it way in the shoulders and neck? Take that mental note and then try it after doing this foam rolling exercise.
We’re going to start with the back of the ribs and you’re going to come and lay back so that you know the back of the ribs are making contact with the foam roller. You’re going to interlace your fingers to support the head and make sure the head is being more centered on the spine and not leading with the chin. We want to focus on that nice posture and protecting our neck. You’re going to lift those hips off the mat and you’re just going to roll forward and back trying to get all the way to the bottom of the ribs. Now depending on the material your foam roller is made out of it’s gonna be more intense so if you’re brand new to foam rolling. You can start off by getting one of the softer ones, they’re cheaper that way too! As you regularly foam roll it’s great to progress into the harder foam roller.
You’re just going to roll up and down those ribs now as the foam roller comes lower, you really have to pay attention to make sure that you’re controlling the abdominal pressure here. You don’t want the belly to be pooching out and you don’t want to go so low that you’re under the lumbar and you’re arching your back. This should not hurt your back, it should feel like that pressure is releasing. It might be uncomfortable when you’re rolling over the ribs because they’re tight. If you find particular spots that are tight or tender hold there for a second – we need to release that before you move on to the next one. Pay attention to those tender spots and give them a little more attention and be very careful that as your foam roller comes down you don’t lose connection. You really have to focus on strong abdominals here and start with a smaller range of motion.
If you’re working on that abdominal strength or if you’re newly postpartum (because we don’t want too much abdominal pressure) we want to start careful and slow!
After focusing on the back of the ribs, spend at least 30 seconds rolling forward and back again. Focusing on those tender spots and then the side ribs. You’re probably going to notice the side ribs are a little more tender than the back. It depends which foam roller you use. You’re just going to bring your side ribs onto the foam roller and you can control how much pressure you have into it. Your opposite arm can help support but you need to be able to put a good amount of weight down to be able to get that rib released so again it might be a little uncomfortable but that probably tells you you really need it! Don’t be afraid to put a little pressure. You don’t put so much that you’re so tense it hurts. We want that balance of uncomfortable but well relaxed.
When you’ve gotten to a point where you’ve foam rolled out those ribs a little bit you can just bring that arm in front and kind of hold it and then move up and down. If you find a spot that’s particularly tender, hang out there for a minute or two until you feel that tenderness release and again make sure you do the other side!
Come back up and try that deep breathing and notice if all the sudden you feel you can get more of that expansion into those ribs. It’s really kind of amazing! I do this often with new clients and it makes a big difference. Go ahead give it a try and let me know how it goes!