Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2015

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Are you sitting down? Good. Now, take a deep breath. No, I'm not preparing you for bad news—I'm inviting you to explore the movement of your own diaphragm (Image 1). First, slouch down and lean forward a little (Image 2), as if you're furiously typing away on a laptop (maybe writing an article for Massage & Bodywork?). Do you feel how that position can immobilize your diaphragm, crowd your solar plexus, compress your abdomen, and make your breath shallower? Then, try the opposite: sit up, with your pelvis under you, and your feet on the floor. Let your shoulders relax, and breathe into your entire torso. Compare those sensations to breathing with a crowded midsection. When our diaphragm is free to move, our unrestricted breath billows in and out, rising and falling like gentle ocean waves. Now, put your hands on your costal arch for your next few breaths. Feel how the rib cage expands and contracts. Imagine the diaphragm, attached all around the lower rim of the bell-like rib cage, moving up and down inside. The diaphragm opens and closes like a slow-motion umbrella (Images 3 and 4). As you inhale and the diaphragm contracts, the umbrella flattens, widens, and moves downward; as you exhale and the diaphragm relaxes, the umbrella narrows and moves upward into a high dome. Feel this for a few breaths: diaphragm contracting downward with inhalation; relaxing upward with exhalation. Lastly, compare the front and back of your diaphragm. If you allow your belly to move while you inhale, you'll feel more activity in the front of your diaphragm. Can you do the same with your back? Imagine the back of your diaphragm expanding in the same way. As Ashtanga yoga teacher Richard Freeman says, let your kidneys be like miniature lungs, expanding and contracting with the breath. If it's hard to feel your breath in this area, put one hand behind you. 106 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k j a n u a r y / f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 5 technique MYOFASCIAL TECHNIQUES Working with the Diaphragm By Til Luchau Compression and crowding of the anterior diaphragm and the midsection of the thorax. 2 The diaphragm attaches all along the lower rim of the bell-like rib cage, as well as to the front of lumbar vertebrae 1–3. Image courtesy Primal Pictures, used by permission. 1

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