Breathing with Floating Ribs and Sternum (49 min, Patrons)

Back-lying, framed by brief standing explorations. Encounter, expand, and enjoy the three dimensional movements of your floating ribs, sternum, and the rest of your chest in this detailed investigation of your profoundly adaptable breath. Discover how changes to breathing and internal spaces alter your perception of yourself and your role in the world.

Before you begin read this for practical tips and your responsibilities, and check out Comfort & Configuration below.

Recorded live in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class, this lesson is copyright Nick Strauss-Klein, for personal use only.

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We offer over 50 free lessons, but this one's just for our Patron-level donors. You can learn about it in the free lesson notes and comments below, but to access the audio you’ll need to join The FP as a Patron. Learn more

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Move quietly and comfortably through all the breathing, lifting, and pressing movements. Gentle, fine, relaxing movements will change and improve your breathing habits faster than anything effortful.

Neck and shoulders help: Throughout the lesson, give time and attention to letting your neck and shoulders comfortably shift and respond to the movements of your chest.

Click Clarifications for several important details.

Throughout this lesson when your lower back is mentioned it’s more accurate to say the upper part of your lower back, or your lower ribs. This is where your floating ribs are.

This means in the early back-lying instructions to “very slightly lift your lower back at the moment of inhaling” the lifting is intended to originate in lower ribs / upper part of your lower back.

Note also: I say “free ribs” in the lesson, but “floating ribs” is the more accurate anatomical term for the lowest ribs, the 11th and 12th pairs which connect to the thoracic vertebrae T11 and T12.

Touch (or click) and drag this 3D image of the ribs and thoracic vertebrae. When you turn it around you’ll see how the floating ribs reach down into the lower back. (The lumbar vertebrae aren’t pictured but they would be below the vertebrae you can see.)

You can also see where the floating ribs end, how they don’t connect directly to the sternum in front like the rest of the ribs – that’s why they’re called floating or “free”.

Because of their freedom and proximity to the largest parts of the lungs, movements of the floating ribs give us the most air for the least muscular effort. Profound improvements to breathing efficiency and pleasure become available when we help the floating ribs get even more free.

After the lesson, and after a 10-minute break so you can pay attention to yourself, you might enjoy hearing my chat with some of the Patrons who were present when this lesson was recorded. Find the ATM discussion link in the event recording.

This lesson is found in Patrons Monthly, our collection of lessons exclusively for Feldenkrais Project Patron-level donors.

It also appears in two Deep Dive courses: Breathing with Vitality and Shoulder Cloak, Rib Basket, Sliding Sternum.

It was recorded during a Patrons Quarterly video call on October 30, 2022 (Patrons), but we recommend studying from the audio version above since it’s been edited for better sound quality, flow, and clarity.

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Got a question for Nick, or a thought about this lesson?

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  1. Nick Strauss-Klein on November 30, 2022 at 3:30 pm

    Discussion on this lesson began on the Zoom replay page for our October 2022 Patrons Quarterly event where it was recorded.

    Since the audio version above is the permanent version of this lesson I’ve copied those comments here:

    shan shnookal
    November 6, 2022 9:08 pm
    Great lesson! But i got MORE than breathing, ribs and sternum! (Tho as you said, Nick, so often we can get exactly “what we need” from ANY lesson!) When standing at the end, I had a nice sense of where “neutral” is. I tend to go between “collapsing” and being too erect/extended/trying too hard/fixing somewhere in my spine/ribs? (and of course holding my breath! I could feel the difference between too up or down, and a more balanced neutral, where the breathing is easiest.
    And thanks for the update. As always Nick, you make me very happy to be part of the Project.

    Reply: Nick Strauss-Klein
    November 7, 2022 9:54 am
    Fantastic – so glad to hear how this lesson and the update “landed” for you! I put so many things I care about into all our content, especially these Patrons Quarterly calls. It’s really gratifying to hear that my intentions come through!

    Tara Mahapatra

    November 13, 2022 11:13 am
    This is my most favorite ATM Lesson ever! Thank you, Nick for presenting it to us (and thank you, Jeff for rescuing the tape from oblivion).

    It’s exciting to discover and experience so many different ways of breathing (like becoming a breathing virtuoso). And every new slight modulation has a different surprising effect. There is so much to explore, that I’ve repeated this lesson 3 times already (as was mentioned in the after- class discussion…).

    Standing at a street corner the day after I did this lesson for the first time, I noticed my breath casually (and joyfully) going to some new area towards one hip. Then after repeating the lesson I noticed I was breathing in lung chambers that seemed to lie behind my collar bone – I thought that was just a sensation, but when I looked at the anatomy of lungs later I realized: they do go this far up. I didn’t even know.

    The most intriguing part for me is the moment when we exhale while lifting the lower back into the sternum. While exhaling consciously, it seems like some unknown part of me is inhaling at the same time. A strange unifying harmonious breath, which transforms my state of consciousness in a powerful way. Fascinating! Thank you, Nick.

    Reply: Nick Strauss-Klein
    November 13, 2022 11:54 am
    Sounds absolutely wonderful, and finds words for some of my own ineffable internal noticings in this lesson. Thanks for sharing! And yes, final title will be “Breathing with Free Ribs and Sternum.” Jeff Haller calls it “Global Breathing” but I need it to stand out and be differentiated from our other breathing offerings. It will become a permanent FP Patrons audio lesson soon.

    Gertrude Schmidt
    November 23, 2022 2:23 am
    What a wonderful lesson! I enjoyed feeling the softening of my ribs – the gliding of my
    shoulder blades – breathing easily – the whole shoulder area felt relaxed.
    I did this lesson yesterday evening and got up this morning still relaxed after a restful sleep.

  2. Geri Destasio on December 1, 2022 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks Nick great lesson! I have felt so expanded all day after doing this lesson! Just what we all need!

  3. Richard Fancy on December 2, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    Delaying inhalation feel’s like Nick’s reminder to release prior moves when doing an ATM. Each move starts from a naive, resting state. When I delay inhalation I can feel some subtle, heretofore unconscious impulses drop away. I’ve been experimenting with delayed inhalation when I meditate.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 9, 2022 at 2:28 pm

      Let us know what you find with it in meditation. I play with it at times and find it very useful.

  4. Luisa on December 3, 2022 at 12:11 am

    I felt really different, as well as in relation to the environment, at the end of this enjoyable lesson. Scale and proportion of myself and surroundings were more obvious. I had a sense of being the subject and the witness simultaneously.

  5. Richard Fancy on December 9, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    In response to Nick: I do a lot of mini meditations through the day (as well as a longer sit.) The delayed breath is particularly useful in these mini meditations . If I delay an inhale till I have the impulse to breathe, I find a bunch of unbidden fantasies and thoughts scatter. It’s a very quick way of being present.

  6. Nigel Atkinson on September 20, 2023 at 3:17 am

    I loved the way this lesson begins and ends in standing and the difference I felt at the beginning and the end.

    The lifted standing and slightly sinking standing are a powerful and simple transition that I will use as they can be very helpful to bring awareness to my students.
    However at the end I felt so lifted it was as if I was upright without any effort, levitated and it was hard to shift to a sinking state which I also probably didn’t want to go too at that moment.

    I am interested to see how the lesson resonates through my day.

    Thank you Nick

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