The thoracic spine contains 50% of the spines joints and is responsible for two-thirds of the movement in your torso. It is important to take good care of the thoracic spine in particular so you can maintain mobility and avoid a stiff rib cage which can restrict the capacity of your diaphragm and lungs.
You can test your own range of motion using the yoga gesture of Uddiyana Bandha (Upward Abdominal Lock). The best time to do it is early in the morning with an empty stomach and bowls. If you have any health conditions such as high blood pressure, hiatal hernia, ulcers, pregnancy, or menstruation, check with your doctor first. Here’s how it’s done:
- Exhale completely. Notice that you do this pressing in with both your chest and abdomen. You can pretend to be blowing up a balloon as much as possible with one breath.
- Do a mock inhalation using your chest, locking your glottis and restraining air from entering your lungs, and at the same time relax your abdomen. If you get confused about how to prevent air from entering your lungs, you can try to inhale (without inhaling) while blocking your mouth and nose with your hands. You should feel your chest lift.
- Holding your breath, try harder to inhale while keeping your abdomen relaxed. Your upper abdomen will form a deep concavity that extends up underneath your rib cage. This is uddiyana bandha.
- Relax your mock inhalation, letting your chest and abdominal organs drop and your abdomen release forward.
- Press gently in with your chest and abdomen, thus equalizing air pressure on the inside and outside of the body, and gently inhale without gasping.
This exercise challenges your thoracic spine and rib cage to use their full range of motion at the costovertebral joints, taking the ribs to their most elevated state which causes the diaphragm to stretch laterally. When done regularly and correctly, it also keeps your thoracic spine healthy.
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