Breathing a Little More Deeply…


Working the soft tissue open along a line under the clavicle – often sensitive because the pectoralis major is generally tight on people, sometimes awkward since there’s less tissue mass here, and usually it’s not an area one thinks of as “relieving” to have worked. But that said, it’s interesting to see that most people do respond positively to the work here. Understanding anatomical function and common postural imbalances, it is an important area to address, yet the way people respond with such surprise and relief themselves always interests me; I learn from it, every time. Watching these same reactions over and over helps me to refine my work and supports the style and intention of it:  to accomplish the most I can, as effectively and efficiently as possible, promoting some positive and acceptable change for the client, while keeping the touch itself great to receive. And we can work this area a little on ourselves, too, which is always a plus.

Apply it to yourself first. Bring the four fingers of each hand together, placing them under the most medial portion of the clavicle, staying in soft tissue, off the sternum and above the first rib. Sink in a little bit first, anchoring your fingers into the tissue, noticing how just the pressure can feel good. Let the fingers slide simply by applying more pressure (a little lotion may be needed here, so the skin isn’t dry, but also isn’t overly lubricated). Sensations can vary: the head and neck can feel less restricted from the anterior pulling of flexion; the upper thorax feels more open, allowing the ribs to expand more in breathing; the shoulders also feel less of that anterior pulling from postural flexion. And even if the client (or you) can’t put words to all the above, there is a lightness felt, like a weight has been removed from around the upper body. Another simple, effective technique here is to apply gentle, rapid, continuous pulses from your fingertips; like a faster rocking to the area. With this approach, the fingertips do better sitting lightly atop the first ribs, anchored in enough to allow the jogging movement against the solidity of bone, while not applying so much pressure that the client feels like you’re trying to do chiropractic adjustment. It creates almost a small wave moving through the client’s body as they lie on the table, or a shorter wave through the upper torso if you’re applying to yourself. Keep the focus on the pectorals major, the primary muscle being addressed here, as it attaches along the anterior and more medial surface of the clavicle and drapes down along the upper anterior torso.

Anything that feels less restrictive in our bodies, anything that feels freeing, is generally well-received and gratefully acknowledged. We don’t always notice the feelings of heaviness we carry around until they are removed. The result can feel like our mood lightens, or we’ve more energy, or sometimes even that years have been dusted off. The responsiveness of the body to touch is amazing, affecting us on so many levels, and so often difficult to describe fully. How does it feel if you apply it to yourself? Grounding, relaxing, opening, comforting, revitalizing, or? See what you notice, see what your client’s non-verbal responses tell you, and hopefully breathing can go more deeply because of it.


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016





I have been licensed and working full time in the massage therapy field since 2001, teaching and writing MT courses since 2006. My experience has led me through working with several different chiropractors, hotel and boutique spas, corporate massage, a climbing gym wellness center, private practice, two different massage schools, one acupuncture/massage college, and my current capacity of working with physical therapy clinics and their patients. And the learning continues…

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