Weekly musings, 1/21/18: strength makes ease
I was working with a client recently who used to have a really hard time relaxing into the floor. When she would lie down on her back, her mid back would arch up, creating space between her ribs and the ground.
I brought awareness to it, like I do. We worked on breathing, and she began to understand how her exhale could change her rib position. She learned to feel where her ribs were during positions like hands and knees, and she figured out that if she wanted her abs to support her, rib position mattered.
She brought the same awareness to standing strength based exercises. I would occasionally let go of major alignment cues, allowing her instead to simply work on the basic coordination and motor control needed to do things like squat, row, press. I would mention her ribs periodically, but I also let her do the movement- if her ribs flared after my initial cue in the beginning, that was okay. In order to build basic strength, sometimes the alignment is a little bit off while the body and the brain figure out how to do the movement. At the beginning of the next set, I would re-cue the ribs and almost always things would look a little bit better than they had the first time around.
Gradually, the client became stronger. As she became stronger, her ribs lifted less and less away from the floor when she lied down. She looked at me last week and said, “my ribs just go down now. I don’t have to think about and it feels so much better on my mid-back.”
Building strength in different positions take patience and consistency. It’s okay if things look a little bit awkward at first as long as you occasionally bring awareness to how you want to be supported. I was once told, “you grow into the position in which you spend the most time.” If you consistently train with your ribs lifted up and out, that’s where they will remain when you sit, lie down, or even come on to your stomach. Establishing the strength to keep the ribs relaxed and down is not necessarily better, but it is different and requires a different way of holding yourself. Play with your alignment occasionally and see if holding yourself differently offers you more or less support in positions that require strength. The most supported place of strength will also give you the most ease.