My manfriend accompanied me on my recent trip to New York City for the YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy training.
We were both excited – you see, we hail from small town, Canada and we had big plans for our trip to the big city. However, on the plane ride, my partner, who was on the mend from a long bout with a cold, had a coughing fit and tore an intercostal (one of the small muscles between the ribs). This proved to be completely debilitating. Our plans came to a screeching halt. The injury prevented him from laughing, stretching, coughing, breathing deeply, and even lying down to sleep. He described the pain as “like being stabbed in the ribs”. Ouch!
The timing was perfect for exploring the question … Is there something that can be done to strengthen and fortify the intercostals against future injury? I was, after all, in New York to study the practical applications of Anatomy! Could I use my new knowledge for the benefit of another human being?
I put on my thinking cap and got to work. First learning about what the intercostals do.
There are two kinds of intercostals: internal and external. The internal intercostals assist with exhalation by drawing the ribs downward and decreasing the space of the thoracic cavity. The external intercostals draw the ribs upward, increasing the volume of the thoracic cavity.
The intercostals are easy to access but sensitive to touch – but you can find them by sliding a finger into the space between your ribs. Then take several slow, deep breaths and any expansion or collapse in the spaces between the ribs.
It is not uncommon for extended runs of sneezing and coughing (hello allergy season!) to result in torn or strained intercostals. But there are things you can do to make these muscles more supple and strong. Yoga Tune Up® to the rescue!
Try the following YTU exercises for strengthening and stretching these small, but important muscles. If you currently have an intercostal injury, wait until the injury is healed before beginning a strengthening and stretching program – and be sure to move gently and mindfully.
To strengthen the intercostals:
Tadasana with end of exhalation contraction
Tadasana with end of inhalation contraction
Jathara Parivartanasana with end of exhalation contraction
Read about exercises for core strength.
Read more about your diaphragm.
Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.