(303) 887-6764 (in Colorado) robmcwilliams@mac.com

It’s always interesting to notice what happens when we release the body into a more normal dynamic functioning. When the ribs and shoulders are tense and stuck, they act to destabilize your balance, by pulling you off line, as well as add resistance in your hips to movement-including hip flexion and extension. Strong attachments between the spine, ribs and pelvic girdle, including but not limited to iliopsoas, quadratus lumborum, latisimus dorsi and illiocostalis muscles, help do this, I believe. Also, once my shoulders, ribs and spine in the upper and middle-back regions are released and better balanced, it just feels to me like the whole system is lifted and floating above the hips. This can be likened to evening out all of the strains in a tent so that it it can be brought up to its full height. ( This last can be seen as one of the goals of Rolfing® Structural Integration.)

Here’s a really simple exercise to achieve this, inspired by my training in Rolf Movement® Integration with teachers like Mary Bond, Ashuan Seeow, Lael Keen and Larry Koliha. It can be done best in pairs, but you can do it solo easily too. Laying on your back on the floor with knees bent, hold a light piece of wood (preferably a 1/2 inch diameter dowel about 10 inches or so long) across the body with its tip on the floor. Very slowly reach across your body. The goal is to twist, with the head still and shoulders relaxed, first feeling for opening across the deltoid region of the arm/shoulder, then releasing the shoulder blade off of the ribs, then the ribs of of the spine, then allow the head to turn, at first allowing only the top vertebrae to twist and moving a  it lower. Keep the hips and pelvis relaxed and pretty still ( but not tense!). I like to work back and forth between stages of articulation, as in between the shoulders/ribs, between the ribs spine, and upper to mid spine. The dowel rod helps give a little bit of weight to this across the body reach, and is a convenient way for your partner to gently pull you into more spiral without strain. Slower is better. Don’t strain. Think of the dowel as an extension of your breath and of your awareness, a bit like a blind person’s cane. It should feel good. You can alter the angle of the arm so that it is higher away from or closer to the floor, as desired. The main idea: ribs like to release in twist or side bending movements, and we use this twist to also release the shoulder girdle off of the ribs and spine, where lots of uneven tensions from the arms and shoulders can throw off your movement. After doing one side, get up and try some arm movements. Then try them on one leg. You will notice how balancing the tone in your shoulder, ribs and spine improves your balance. Try some extensions. Your back may feel more forward; better placement here frees the hip joint in movements that emphasize flexion ( front extension), abduction ( side extension) and hip/spine extension ( arabesque).

Try it!