Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2021

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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 87 This technique is the application of a proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation for the muscles of upper respiration. THE PRACTICE One of the most profound techniques I have used when it comes to working with a client's breath is a proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). This may seem like a sideways approach at fi rst glance. We have seen it used to increase elasticity in the hamstrings or improve range of motion in the shoulder. The direct impact on skeletal muscle is markedly impressive. How it works when applying it to breath is a little different. The muscles involved in breathing are many—the scalenes, the intercostals, and the quadratus lumborum (QL), to name a few. The diaphragm is also a "skeletal muscle" that we cannot omit. But direct contact with this broad thoracic dissector is not easy. It does, however, share attachments with the rectus abdominis in the front, the QL in the back, and the lower intercostals, all clinging to the last ribs like a child to his mother's leg. And, like a child and his mother, it is diffi cult to infl uence one without the other feeling the impact. TRY THIS With your client supine, have them lift their arms above their head in a comfortable position, hands either clasped behind their head or creatively bolstered. Standing at the side of the table, gently hold their lateral and lower ribs with broad hands. This can be done directly on the skin or through a sheet, depending on the client. Ask your client to inhale deeply, pulling their breath up into their sternum, shoulders, and upper chest, lifting the breath superiorly and engaging the upper muscles of inhalation. While they are doing this, you are anchoring down on the ribs you are holding, pulling in the opposite direction toward their feet. Have them hold at the top of their breath, and when they are ready, allow their exhalation to occur naturally, similar to a defl ating balloon. This technique is the application of a PNF for the muscles of upper respiration. But it also allows for the relaxation of the QL and rectus abdominis and the elongation of the intercostals and all the serratus muscles. As we pull down against this multidimensional force, the impact can be felt throughout. The dovetailing of contraction and relaxation—pushing and pulling, inhaling and exhaling—is a direct insight for the client into what exactly is happening when they breathe. Becoming aware of the ingrained contradictions breath holds is the starting point for creating a transformation. We can, in fact, strive for both the hard six-pack of the workout guru and the soft belly of the peaceful Buddha. Help your clients remember that this is true. Breath, then, will be exactly what it needs to be. Allison Denney is a certifi ed massage therapist and certifi ed YouTuber. You can fi nd her massage tutorials at She is also passionate about creating products that are kind, simple, and productive for therapists to use in their practices. Her products, along with access to her blog and CE opportunities, can be found at SCAN AND WATCH "Massage Tutorial: Serratus and Intercostals with a Diaphragm Chaser!"

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