It may sound to good to be true that 1 simple change will help posture but it exists. It is quite simple make a routine of having your palms up. This means when you are walking have your palms forward and when you are sitting rest your palms up. Practice this during the day take a break from working on the computer and rest your palms up on your desk, while sitting at home rest palms up, when you go for a walk spend some of the time walking with your palms forward, when you are driving alternate resting one hand on your thigh palm up.
During meditation many techniques recommend keeping your palms up. The purpose of this simple posture change was used to open the chest for breathing and allow the heart to function optimally. Restriction of the muscles in the front of the chest and neck will not allow our rib cage to move freely and holds the upper ribs in a depressed state. When we breath our rib cage is elevated allowing air to enter our lungs via negative pressure. When these muscles are tense we don not inhale fully with each breath. When we inhale with our upper ribs it opens the thoracic cavity freeing the heart up to beat optimally. When we turn our palms up it causes us to rotate our shoulders back opening up the chest wall. A very similar technique is used by runners after a race by putting their hands on top of their head allowing the chest to open.
Anatomy of the Rib Cage
The rib cage is made up of 7 true ribs, 3 false ribs, and 2 floating ribs. The 7 true ribs which individually attach directly to the sternum thru cartilage, 3 false ribs which have a common single joined cartilage attachment to the sternum and 2 floating ribs which do not attach to the sternum.
When we breathing correctly three components are coordinated:
- The true ribs elevate increasing the front to back diameter of the upper thoracic cavity.
- The false ribs elevate and widen increasing the side to side diameter of the lower thoracic cavity.
- The diagram lowers opening the up and down size of the entire thoracic cavity
The combination of these 3 motions create a negative pressure in the thoracic cavity allowing air to flow into the lungs. You can feel these motions on your self by putting one hand on the front of the upper part of your chest (over your heart) while the other hand is on the side of the lower part of your chest and take in a deep breath. You can feel the distinct first 2 components of breathing. To feel the third put your hand over your belly button and inhale deeply to feel the third.
Postural Effect on Breathing
Poor posture of the neck and shoulders is the result of tightness of the deep chest and neck muscles which attach to the true ribs. Poor posture is forward head posture and rolled forward shoulders which is a stress related adaption we develop. It is reinforced by by working on computers, driving, and cell phone use. The tight muscles causing this posture are the Scalene Muscles in the neck and the Pectoralis Minor and Serratus Anterior originating from the shoulder blades. Tightness of these muscles will decrease the free movement of the 7 true ribs limiting our chest expansion. These muscles are also commonly involved in pain syndromes of the neck, shoulder, and upper extremity in Western Medicine. In Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine they are also correlated to diseases of respiration/circulation. The physiologic fact is they are related to both. When these muscles are tight they lead to pain syndromes and shallow breathing.
Practicing the palm up technique will help you relax the tight muscles in the chest and neck and activate the weak muscles in the back of the neck and upper back. This method trains your body to hold a better posture. While practicing this technique pay attention to how you breath and how your posture changes. Incorporate this posture during your meditative technique and set your focus on the three components of breathing. Be mindful of the three components during your meditative focus and use it as a tool during the day with the palm up technique to rapidly ease stress and pain.