A big fan of Pranayamas

Pranayamas are usual part of yoga classes. In one of them, the teacher, Hélène, asked us to breathe alternatively from the belly and from the thoracic cage. I could easily breathe from the belly but I was totally incapable of breathing through the thoracic cage. I asked the teacher for help and she could only noticed my inability to breathe from the thoracic cage. I felt like the rib cage was stuck inside my body.

My teacher was at that time studying anatomy with a yoga educator named Leslie Kaminoff. In 2001, Leslie founded The Breathing Project in New York City, a studio dedicated to teaching the individualized, breath-centered principles of yoga. Each week the Anatomy & Breath Clinic featured a different invited client with a specific anatomical concern. Hélène advised me to enroll to the Breath Clinic. On a cold November afternoon, I had the chance to be a guinea pig in Leslie’s class: I explained my problems in front of the students and Leslie made me lied down on a mat. He pressed firmly, when I write firmly I really mean it, on my belly until something popped up out of my body: I was able to breathe through my rib cage. Leslie then pointed to his students how my thoracic cage was now moving up and down. But, strangely enough, I wasn’t feeling at all that I was breathing through my rib cage.

So Leslie made me come back for another session in which the goal was for me to have the proprioperception of my rib cage moving. He first showed to the students that the rib cage was going up and down and then pulled on my bra and slapped it on my thoracic cage. Leslie asked me if I felt the slapping. I was pretty surprised by this technique but! I felt the slapping and the movement of my thoracic cage. Since then, I have not only been able to breathe through the rib cage but also to feel that I am breathing through the rib cage.

The benefits of this experiment went beyond yoga studios. I had been asthmatic since I was a baby. I would regularly experience asthmatic bronchitis, especially in winter, during which I had to take prednisone to cure them and wouldn’t go anywhere with my Ventolin inhaler in my handbag. I haven’t had a single asthma crisis since the day Leslie unlocked my thoracic cage. I believe that my lungs hadn’t have enough space to work effectively and would then get inflamed and narrowed. I am very grateful to Hélène, Leslie and pranayamas.

Carole A.