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18 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j a n u a r y/ fe b r u a r y 2 0 2 3 Although this may not be an "ode" in the way you might have been expecting, it is written with the romanticism of a poet and through the eyes of an artistic anatomist. I like to think of the following words as an ode: a passionate perspective about an oft overlooked yet exceptional part of our structure and function. The sternum. The solid bone that is singularly situated at the center of our selves. Sometimes referred to as the chest bone or the breastbone, it's not far-fetched to think of the sternum as a piece of armor. This incredible barrier between the outside world and our indispensable heart is thick, strong, and the keystone of our rib cage. But, like a plate of armor, it houses the dents and marks of the battles we have fought. Technically delineated into three parts—the manubrium, the body, and the xyphoid process—the sternum is bound by ligaments, fascia, and a responsibility to protect what's behind it. This bind keeps the three parts together in solidarity, but because anatomy is anatomy and humans are human, this bind also limits, compresses, and weighs heavily on the person it belongs to. As the tissues tighten and the weight heightens, we slowly shift from robust to convex. Maybe it's not rounded shoulders you see in your client, but instead a case of crescent thoracic cavity. The sternum and its relationship to the costal components is designed with breath in mind. But the expanding balloon held within the ribs can only go as far as its barrier allows. As we know, and as many of us can feel, time makes brittle what was once pliable. The limitations on the balloon become strict with age. This, combined with the reactivity of connective tissue from the conf licts we have survived, evolves into constraints that can seem confining. Breath becomes small. How do we approach what is compressed? Teaching clients about breath comes first. But asking a client to breathe deeper isn't enough. It can be like asking someone who is claustrophobic to join you for a weekend of spelunking. There's going to be a lot of resistance unless there is some guidance first. With your client supine and with their arms undraped, focus your awareness to all the muscles that converge centrally at the chest. Notice your client's breath, the TECHNIQUE By Allison Denney KEY POINTS • The sternum is a thick, strong bone that protects the heart from the outside world, but the sternum's strength can also limit, compress, and weigh heavily on the person it belongs to. • Massage therapists can help their clients "loosen" the sternum with a technique that focuses on the breath. An Ode to the Sternum THE REBEL MT

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