One of the toughest things for beginners is dancing with the rib-cage. It's not just a matter of learning direction and rhythm, many students struggle with just getting their rib-cage to move, at all. And it's no wonder. We don't walk around swinging our chests around on a daily basis. Wouldn't that be a site?
And unless you have a background in hip-hop or Indian dance, chances are, you've never tried isolating your rib-cage. And added to a lack of use, most of us spend our days hunched over at a computer, carrying around heavy bags, or heavy kids, and creating an upper tension that locks everything tight into place.
So new students are faced with the challenge of loosening muscle tension to open the rib-cage, before they can build strength to control the movement. It can feel like it's impossible when your teacher gives you the instruction to slide, circle and lift a previously immobile part of your body. And many students are left watching "how easy" it is for "everyone else" and feeling bad, thinking their body just doesn't work that way.
But it does. And you can do it! You just need to execute the two Ps: Practice and Patience.
And the good news is you don't need to wait until your next dance class, or try to set aside an hour for an at home practice to do it. Nope, you just need the will to try and you'll find you already have openings in your daily routine.
Luckily, the best way to isolate rib-cage movements, is by sitting down. And, I'm pretty sure you find yourself doing that a bunch throughout the day (in your car*, at the computer, at the dinner table). So next time you find yourself sitting, try out some of the movements below.
Practice a little here and there. Take it easy and go slow. Be aware of how your muscles feel. Don't strain or pull, just see how much movement you can get. And as you practice more and more, you'll find your rib-cage slowly opening up. :-)
Have fun with it!
* Common sense note: Do not practice while the car is in motion!
Seated Rib-Cage Exercises
Set your posture:
Sit up, pull your lower belly in enough to bring your pelvis into a neutral position. Lift the upper body and ease the shoulders down the back. Imagine a string coming out of the center of your head and pulling you up straight. Place your hands on your hips/ side ribs/ or wherever comfortable.
--> Slide your ribs, like a typewriter, side to side
--> Slide your ribs, front to back
After you start to loosen up a bit...
--> Slide just to one side a number of times, then repeat in the other directions
When you feel comfortable with that, try the following.
--> Chest Box: Slide the ribs to one side, then to the front, the other side, and the back, repeat the other way
--> Chest Circle: Smooth your box into a circle, practice both directions
If you are feeling all of that and want more...
--> See what other ways you can move your ribs (up, down, tilt, twist, etc.)
--> Practice lifts and drops
--> Drill shoulder and head movements
Comment below to share your progress with Lulu and other students!
And stay tuned for more tips and yoga exercises to open up the chest.