RELEASING  &  STRETCHING

Thoracic spine

 

1) GENTLE TRACTION & MOBILITY

Amongst other benefits, this routine helps improve posture, thoracic mobility and enhances breathing functionality.

Notes on Hanging

  1. Be aware of any feeling of tightness, stretch or burning sensation. Fascial restrictions tend to feel like a burning stretch. Do you feel any burning or stretching sensation? Where is that? Is it in your Lats muscle (Latissimus dorsi)? Somewhere in your rib cage? Maybe you feel it at the level of the lumbar spine? Or perhaps in several places at the same time? Just observe. Be aware and practice your diaphragmatic breathing.

  2. While practicing your diaphragmatic breathing, imagine you direct the air into the areas of tightness or restriction. Imagine the air "opens" the area and helps tissues become softer.

  3. If your grip is weak, you might need a break now. It's ok. Gradually, you will be able to hold for longer. Take a break and hang again.

  4. To create some thoracic mobilization, increase the pressure of one foot into the floor (push into the floor with one foot). Feel your rib cage "open" or "stretch" (usually on the opposite side). "Breathe through" and try to relax. Go back to neutral, then push into the floor with the other foot. Breathe and relax.

  5. Back to an equal pressure with both feet. Inhale, allowing your lower rib cage to expand, exhale by "tucking" your gluts (if you were a dog, imagine that you are bringing your tail down between your legs). Inhale relaxing your spine, exhale while tucking your tail. If you sit for prolonged periods of time, you may feel a "stretch" at the level of your groin area (hip flexors). Breathe, relax and allow your body to sink down a little lower.

  6. Stay there, in that supported hanging position. See how long you can hold this for, in a relaxed way. Feel the weight of your body gently creating more room between your vertebrae. Enjoy this gentle traction.

  7. Stand on your feet, breathe a few times and then relax your arms. Stand tall. Use The Thread. 

 

Whenever you are ready for it (I will let you know) try the following routine after hanging. Sit tall (don't hunch over) on one of your buttocks and laterally bend your body laterally (see pictures below). Breathe through any restriction at the level of the rib cage or anywhere else. See if you can bend further in a relaxed way. Direct the inhalation air towards the areas of restriction. Alternate side.

2) EXTENSION & ROTATION

Amongst other benefits, this routine helps improve posture, thoracic mobility and enhances breathing functionality.

Note: Do not try this until you are ready for it (I will let you know).

  1. Lay on one side.

  2. Flex both hips. We are looking for an angle between your spine and femurs that is smaller than 90˚. See picture.

  3. Your gluts and knees should be aligned and perpendicular to the floor. Thus, to allow this to happen, place a towel under your knees and another one between your knees.

  4. Stabilize your body, from waist down. From now on, avoid any rotation from waist down (this includes your lumbar spine). At the beginning, use a door frame to help you stabilize hips and lumbar spine.

  5. Rotate your T-spine (see pictures). 

 

Important: Do this routine AFTER practicing the Gentle Traction & Mobility exercise (above). The first exercise will help create some space between the vertebrae, this exercise will help improve the mobility between those vertebrae.

Optional but highly recommended for beginners: You can utilize a door frame (see second set of pictures) to help you keep the alignment throughout the whole routine. Use the door frame to stabilize your legs (feet against one side of the door frame) and to help you rotate your T-spine (hand on the other side of the door frame). At all times, make sure you are NOT rotating from your lumbar spine or hips.

Note: It is crucial to maintain a stable lumbar spine. Make sure you are locking-stabilizing (in other words, keeping immobile) your whole lower body from waist down, INCLUDING your lumbar spine. Why? If the T-spine is restricted, the lumbar spine will compensate for it. But the lumbar spine was not designed to do that. With time, repetitive stress will irritate and damage the lumbar area. The health of the lumbar spine depends on optimal levels of T-spine mobility (and hip mobility, but that is another story). That is why it is so important to regain and maintain optimal thoracic mobility.

The objective of this exercise is to improve T-spine mobility without causing any stress or compensatory movement at the level of the lumbar spine.

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