Ribs move!

I had a Master’s student once who told me that her undergrad teacher said “To breathe well, don’t move your ribs”

Not surprisingly, this student was not making phrases and had a rather anemic sound!

The ribs are designed to move. With each inhalation they swing up and out and with each exhalation they return down and in to their former neutral position. They are connected to the spine in back by joints – 24 ribs (12 on each side) and 24 joints (12 on each side).

In the front the ribs attach to the costal cartilage which connects to the sternum. The cartilage is spongy and malleable to allow the ribs to move. When the ribs swing up and out upon inhalation, the cartilage gets twisted and energy is stored in it. The energy is released upon exhalation in a process known as elastic recoil – the body’s tendency to seek nuetral.

The shocking thing about this story is that the teacher of this student is quite a well known trombonist who plays beautifully. I can think of three possibilities for what happened to this student:

1. She didn’t understand her teacher

2. She (perhaps unintentionally) misrepresented what her teacher said

3. Her teacher gave her bad advice

Any of these three are unacceptable. When a musician does not move well because of a misunderstanding like this, she is at risk for injury. Teachers have an obligation to speak the truth and, in fairness, students should make sure they understand clearly what the teacher is saying.

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