Chest, Lung, Low Back and Pelvis Practices

The practices presented below are deeply rooted in the field of Somatics and draw from T'ai Chi, Qigong, Yoga and Pilates modalities.

These practices help to aerate the lungs and body.  The air fills and perfuses the lungs, naturally increasing filling capacity, and all areas of the lungs are better aerated.  These practices can also improve the reflexive coordination of the breath effort,  and can lead to decreased work of breathing. These practices are simple, enjoyed with  humble ease, an open feeling, and practiced patiently, and comfortably.  These ideas are to be explored gently, slowly, in short sessions, with moderation and integration.

Breathe into All Areas of Your Lungs

We can be habituated to preferentially fill one lung or the other, to fill only certain lung lobes, or to not fully exhale from all areas of our lungs.  

  • Pause and feel into where the air of our breath is, or is not, filling our lung spaces.

  • Notice that pattern, and let yourself stay in it for a bit. Once you notice, it can feel awkwardly uncomfortable, but take take a bit to be curious about that pattern.

  • Then, let yourself invite the air into less habituated areas.

  • Let this happen gradually.

Trouble Breathing? - Shift and Change Positions
  • Acute cases of difficult breathing can be from lung fluids, or compressed tissue. Moving about helps shift these situations.
  • It helps keep the lungs' alveolar sacs more evenly inflated.
  • The heart doesn't always press into the same place.
  • The blood flows shift,  rebalancing fluids evenly and helping to avoid pooling.
  • The belly contents can adjust to make room for the moving diaphragm.
  • In case of any challenge with breathing, try also taking a leaned forward position, or a "table top" position. which will ease the muscular effort of breathing.
Pursed Lip Breathing
  • Let your lungs fully fill.  Fill then all, all the way.
  • Let the air stretch into every space of your lungs, keep filling.
  • Then press/purse you lips together, and let the air slowly escape. Blow out, like through a very small straw.
  • Maintain the pressure, feel for opening areas.
  • Repeat a few times, and then relax.
Circular Breathing Practices
  • This practice uses your somatic imagination.  Move your breath in circles as you breathe in and out.  
  • The breath is inviting the Qi to move.
  • This practice will teach an experience of "knowing" the mind and body relationship.
  • There are two most simple versions.  Front to back - one circles it one way, the other circles it the other way.
  • The inhale lifts through the back, circulates thru the crown, and the exhale descends into the deep pelvis and rounds to come up the back again with our inhale.  This has an inspiring, lifting feeling to our spine and a grounding, centering feeling to our exhale.
  • Going the other way, our nurturing inhale lifts our chest and heart, circulates through the crown to descend the back with the exhale, allowing for alignment with the center of the Earth.  This brings the heart up and rests it comfortably on the Earth.
  • Physically we breathe better, and energetically they fill and circulate Qi that nourishes the entire body.
  • There are many variations of this practice. This is the simplest and most direct one I know.
Pleural Dome Circles
The Pleural Dome is the flat facial dome that hangs from the first ribs, collar bones, upper back and shoulder blades. They provide this tented dome with structural anchoring for the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and interconnected fascia.
  • This practice can be difficult to feel what to do.  It is subtle.  So any movement you feel is good.  Small "imaginary" movements are "real".
  • You can either do this by using your neck to "stir the cauldron" of your chest.  That is, the head and neck to be more rigid,  helping move the upper chest.
  • Or you can do this by visualizing a "yoke" made by your collar bones and shoulder blades and you are using circles to shuffle that yoke around a bit.
  • Again, go for the small opening movements.
  • Feel for the air coming and going.
  • Be curious about how you can move here.
Diaphragm Circles
  • This practice helps to mobilize the lower rib cage, the breathing diaphragm, as well as the lower lung lobes.
  • Stand comfortably with you feet placed hip width apart.
  • Keep your shoulders and your hips relatively fixed.
  • Put your hands on your ribs and move your lower ribs around in a circle.
  • The plane of the circle is parallel to the ground.
  • Feel for how the movement happens.
  • Feel for how the air flow changes in different areas of the circle.
  • Invite yourself to move into the areas that are more rigid.
  • Try the other direction too, large circles, small circles.
Upper Chest and Lung Opening
  • Find a rope or strap.  I like to tie the strap into a loop, and then make an overhand knot in the middle.  The knot helps center the pull, and the the loop and circle form gives you something to push and hang from.
  • Lift your arms, allowing your hands to rest and press on the inside of the loop.  Let the tension of the loop hold your arms up.
  • Let the chest lift, and the new air fill the upper lung fields.
  • Simply rest on the rope, and lean to the sides letting everything open.
  • Keep it pain-free, and comfortably ease into more movement.
  • If you have shoulder trouble, improvise with lower heights, lift one arm with the other, play in the range that you have.
Percuss the Back and Lungs
  • Tie a big knot at each end of a rope (a few feet long).
  • Hold one knot and fling the other over your shoulder.
  • Fling it back to tap a good spot at the chest.
  • The arm movements are helpful, as well as the chest opening and back arching.
  • The tap feels good.  Play with landing it right.
  • You can also use a juggling club.
  • The percussion helps break up areas of consolidation.
Mobilizing the Upper Chest and Lungs
  • Start on your hands and knees, evenly spaced.
  • Arch and bow your upper back each way.
  • Focus on the upper ribs and collar bones.
  • Moving the upper chest towards and away from the floor.
  • Feel for and stretch of your windpipe.
  • Feel for the how the air moves by itself.
  • Relax back to a neutral mid-position and feel the breathing.
Stretch the Trachea
  • Lay flat on your back, knees bent.  
  • Let your head rest on the floor.  
  • Press your elbows into the ground, stretching your upper chest, lungs and trachea - longer, open.  
  • Feel the air come in.
  • This can be a little hard to feel, but practice a bit, it will come.

"Sounding" into the Lung fields and/or Throat, Body Areas

  • Make different sounds into different areas of the body.

  • You choose the pitch and where and how you use it.

  • Play with different vowel sounds and mouth shapes.

  • Synchronize the vibration. Direct the vibration.

  • Notice the relationship between the vibration and the restriction.

  • Use the mechanical vibration to break-up areas of consolidation, or thickened fibrous tissue, and to promote fluid flow.

Hyperventilate Occasionally​
  • Even if you cannot fully exercise because of health conditions, try to go ahead and fully fill and empty your lungs repetitively - for a bit.  Exercise the lungs while you are laying down.
  • Use the heavy breathing to expand and contract your rib cage.
  • Make your chest move with every big breath. 
  • Keep your lung capacity.
Calming the Slinky Wave
  • Hold your slinky with an end in each hand (see Suggestions on Toys to learn about slinkys and springs!)
  • Wave the slinky up and down to get it going.
  • Then calmly hold still, waiting for the oscillations to calm down.
  • As the waves still, so do you.
These practices are for mostly achy back.  They can be used for more acute radiating pain but only if you are extra gentle, and practiced only if there is no increase in pain.  In cases of significant pain, these practices should be done only by engaging with the movements but not quite doing them.  That is, setting up for the stabilization but not adding any strain.  And of course, get consults, and have your pain well evaluated.
Checking into the hip section is also beneficial.
Easy Lift a Knee:
  • Lay comfortably on a carpeted floor, or a yoga mat
  • Let your body be supported by the ground
  • Have your knees bent to reduce arch in the low-back
  • Engage your core and be a good anchor, then easy lift, or start to lift a knee.  Then try the other knee.  Relax.
  • After you do this a bit, you may want to hug your knees to your chest to lengthen out the low back again.
  • Play with the process of stabilization at the initiation of the movement, rather than heaving the leg up.
  • Relax in between movements, this relieves the back muscles
The Pelvic Bowl or the Pelvic Clock:
  • The idea is to move the pelvis and lower rib cage in various directions
  • By visualizing a bowl of water on your belly, you can understand better how to move.  You want to slosh the water around the bowl.
  • You can also start with a clock image sitting on your belly and tilting the clock along the noon to 6 axis, and then try between 3 and 9 o'clock axis
  • Then you can try circles in each direction, around the clock
  • Feel for where it is harder to move, and let yourself explore and gently open into those places.
  • All this helps the back to learn stabilization
Bicycle Legs:
  • These can be challenging.  Less is more.  We are not looking for speed or effort here.  The idea is to add weight to further engage core stabilization.
  • The low back needs to be able to stay well anchored to the floor, that is not arching under the strain
  • You can play with leg position for different weights and leg angles to engage core stabilization from
  • Remember the resting and relaxing, so that the core muscles are not gripping.  They are "waking up" and "activating".  No strain.
Mini Low Back/Sacrum Bridges:
  • Basically you are starting out on your back - a nice long back with your knees bent
  • Start by only lifting your hips a little; to see if you can get tiny articulations in your low back - curing and uncurling
  • You can put your feet on a ball, or cushion, or foam roller, for more stabilization fun.   And, starting on the flat floor is usually best
QiGong Heel Landing:
  • Simply stand on tippy-toes, balance
  • Then let your body land back down on your heels
  • You will feel yourself re-orienting to your alignment.  Notice this and let that inform you
Sitting on a Heavy Ball:
  • A stiff heavy ball works better as you can sit onto it with more pressure
  • Move about, into areas that are thicker and less flexible
  • Lean forward onto your arms if this is too hard on your knees, or the pressure is too much