The ribcage has an unfortunate name. Sure, it is descriptive — The ribcage is made of ribs and does look like a cage. But the ribcage is mean to be protective, not restrictive.
The external and internal intercostals, those lovely muscles between each rib, should be both strong and flexible so that the ribs can expand and articulate.
What does that mean?
It means that as your torso moves, let’s say as you reach upwards to reach for something on a high shelf, the ribs on that side should expand. Cool, right.
The problem arises when we let stillness lock the ribcage, which inhibits both movement and breath.
So today, our disruption is physical. Reach for something in every direction (far right and up, left and upward, backward and upward, and forward and upward). Observe how each direction articulates the ribs on that side, switch sides. Arch your back backward gently and slowly and observe the articulate and spread of front and sides of the ribs in response. Bend forward gently and slowly and observe the same in the back and sides of the ribs. After you have explored the full range of motion available to you, take three long breaths and observe what your ribs are capable of when they can move.
If you are finding a lot of tension or difficulty moving the ribcage some localized massage will help. This can be as simple as tracing each rib you can reach with your thumb and searching for the gaps between them. They will sore if they are rigid but be gentle and get your movement back. Breathing is not optional.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.