Archive for category Breathing Mechanism

Cause and Effect

When the ribs move in conjunction with the diaphragm’s descent, air is brought into the body. It is the movement of the ribs and diaphragm and subsequent expansion of the thoracic cavity which causes air to come into the body.

Air coming into the body does not cause the ribs and diaphragm to move – that’s backwards.

The lungs don’t do anything by themselves – they depend upon surrounding structures (the ribs and diaphragm) to move. If it weren’t for the ribs and diaphragm moving, the lungs would just sit there like a liver or an appendix.



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The Importance of Rib Movement

Ribs are designed to move by virtue of their attachment to the sternum via the costal cartiledge and their attachment to the spine via joints. The costal cartiledge is spongy and flexible, allowing the ribs to swing up and out. In fact, when the ribs swing up and out upon inhalation, they twist the cartiledge, storing energy in the cartiledge. When we exhale, the energy is released, in a phenomenon known as elastic recoil.

It’s the ribs moving that causes the thoracic cavity to expand in volume and the air to rush in.

It’s not the air rushing in that causes the ribs to move – that’s backwards! Rib motion is a primary motion of breathing.

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How does breathing information fit into my performing?

Learning about breathing is like learning music theory. It is part of your foundation of knowledge that helps you play your best, even though it may not be at the forefront of your thoughts as you perform. Understanding what a secondary dominant is allows you shape the music and phrasing accordingly; understanding the role of the pelvic floor in breathing allows you to support the tone accordingly.

When you walk on stage to perform, secondary dominants aren’t foremost in your mind, nor should the pelvic floor be (or any other singular part of the breathing mechanism)!

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Diaphragm video

Check out the new diaphragm video link under Breathing Resources…

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Ribs and Arms

Your arms are not attached to your ribs, they are suspended above your ribs.

Why is this important? Because if your arms were attached to your ribs, they would inhibit the rib movement which is necessary for good breath support.

To breathe well, keep your elbows away from your ribs. Allow your ribs to move independent from your arms; with each inhale your ribs swing up and out and with each exhale they swing back down and in to thier neutral resting position. This motion must happen regardless of the position of your arms.

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The Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor is a network of muscles which serves as the floor to the abdominal cavity. These are the muscles you would clench tightly if you had to go to the bathroom but there were no bathroom around.

When you inhale, your diaphragm presses down hard on the contents of the abdominal cavity. The viscera contained in the abdominal cavity (the stomach, intestines, etc.) flow down and out in a distinctive tide-like motion resulting in abdominal expansion in the front, sides and back. The viscera also flow downward, pressing down on the pelvic floor.

When the viscera press down on the pelvic floor, its downward arch deepens, if you allow it. This motion is rather like stepping onto a miniature exercise trampoline. Upon exhalation, the pelvic floor springs back up, as though stepping off the trampoline. The pelvic floor helps you exhale if you do not clench the muscles which comprise it.

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Spinal Excursion

One of the most central (and surprising to many!) movements of breathing is spinal excursion. The spine gathers as you inhale and it lengthens as you exhale, if you allow it.

Spinal excursion coordinates all the other movements of breathing. If spinal excursion is allowed to happen, the other parts of breathing occur as they should.

I like to think of the spine gathering in terms of the vertebrae getting slightly closer together. When this happens, the ribs can swing up and out in the front just that more efficiently. In other words, as you inhale, your spine gathers and your ribs swing up and out in front, blossoming like a butterfly opening its wings.

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