I have to confess, since the age of about 12, I have been known as a rib thruster.If you are new to this term, let me introduce you to my friend Katy Bowman, world renowned biomechanical scientist.

In Katy’s words: ‘’ Many people ‘hide’ their thoracic kyphosis by thrusting their ribs forward, but it is better to keep your ribs down and work on stretching these tight muscles (instead of manipulating the skeleton to hide them!).’’

So when I was around 12, like any other ‘normal’ girl, I started to become self-conscious about my weight, the size of my thighs and my waistline. One day as I was carefully observing myself in mirror, I found out that when I stood in neutral alignment, my thighs appeared to be VERY fat. But when I did ‘funny things’ with my pelvis (like stick my butt out) and and combine that with thrusting my ribs forward and up, my legs looked more like Naomi’s. And that sounded really cool!

This new position soon became my new normal. I walked around for almost 15 years (and to this day I have to work on my posture) with my ribs carried way ahead of my pelvis, without even knowing how much damage I was creating in my own body.

The first time I got to know I was abusing my spinal tissues was in the Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 training when my mentor Jill Miller clearly pointed out this rib alignment deficiency in my body.

Drawing my ribs back and setting them right over my pelvis was incredibly uncomfortable; as years with a disorganized spine had made my illiopsoas, sartorius and adductors very, very tight.

Why Is Rib Thrusting So Bad For Me?

Good alignment and mobility of the rib cage are essential for influencing how much air enters the body and how much oxygen enters the blood. Since many of the abdominal muscles attach to the lower ribs as well, being a rib thruster easily leads to weak stomach muscles, disc compression and lack of spinal stability. Ouch!

 

Refine Your Alignment: Fix Your Rib Thrusting!

Compare these 2 pictures:

What do you see?

In the first image you can clearly notice the massive global extension of the spine, which results from shoving the ribs forward and upwards. In the second image you can see a more aligned spine and organization of the thoracic segment over the pelvis throughout.

Aligning your ribs and moving away from being a chronic rib thruster is very simple:

Start by lining up your xyphoid process over your pubic bone. The xyphoid process is the bony triangular bit at the bottom of your sternum. Line up this bony landmark right above your pubic bone. The way I like to think about it is ‘’doing an abdominal crunch’’ with the top segments of your rectus abdominus-without actually crunching!

What is important to understand is that years of rib thrusting might leave your spine in a vulnerable place (I know mine was) and many muscles and connective tissues will become chronically tight and dehydrated. This is where getting good bodywork and regularly rolling with Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls becomes an inevitable part of your healing process!

Check out my next blog where I will share with you 2 amazing techniques to help release the restrictions that years of rib thrusting might have created in your body and improve your rounded shoulder posture.

Read “Save your body from rib thrusting.”

Learn about our Therapy Ball Programs.

Watch our free Quickfix videos.

Dagmar Khan

Dagmar Khan is the 1st Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher in Europe and leading mobility expert in whole Ireland; with over 15 years of experience in Yoga, Pilates, Stress Management and Fitness. She is sought-after core-expert who specializes in helping people overcome physical roadblocks and rehabilitate from serious injuries, such as spinal problems, hip replacements, osteoporosis and arthritis. Dagmar has worked with 1000’s of people and has created successful Yoga Tune Up® programs for athletic clubs, colleges, and university lecturers in sport and medical doctors. Dagmar is the creator of INJURY FREE RUNNING program for the Solas Run For Life, a contributing fitness expert to Beat 102 103 & Waterford Today, and her work has been featured on Dublin City FM, WLR FM, Munster Express and Waterford News & Star. For more information visit www.dagmarkhan.com

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Karen McGovern

This sounds like me. I am working on the rib thrusing. So common for so many people. So difficult to make that change for so important to the posture and comfort of the body.

Kat

I too was a rib thruster through years of ballet training and being told to imagine a fish hook going under the ribs and lifting them up and out! Imagine!! It wasn’t until I was under the guidance of my first yoga teacher who spotted those ribs walking through the studio door before I did; she too was a dancer and saw me coming a mile off! It was at this time that I soon realised my spine had little movement/flexion/extension and I had chronically tight muscles. The bony landmark lineup cited in this article is a great cue for… Read more »

Lezanne Swart

Although not a rib thruster myself, I also became aware of this phenomenon through Katy Bowman and then realised that a lot of my yoga students were doing it, trying and get more extension through their shoulders. Now I always make students aware of it and how to find optimal alignment in their bodies. Thanks for the great post on this Dagmar!

Noémie

You have just answered most of my postural issues. I notice myself bringing the ribs foward now haha! Makes me realize how important proper alignment is and will try to incorporate the information everytime i teach a class.

Amber Green

Thank you! I just identified myself as a rib thruster through this article, as Mimi and Lisa (my Level 1 Tune Up instructors) both kept adjusting my ribs. As a dancer this is very problematic and may be the answer to a lot of my postural issues.

Jessie Dwiggins

I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing the origins of your rib thrusting. I, too, am a rib thruster and I think it has to do with a energetic pattern of “giving my energy away” to others. The xiphoid process/pubic bone line up was a revelation in Level 1 training. I didn’t realize how much chronic discomfort I felt in my mid and low back. Katy Bowman’s work has also been incredibly helpful. I’m now unraveling my QL tightness and emotional stuckness and it feels great!

Eva Roig

The cue to line the xiphoid process over the pubic bone is really helping adjust my alignement. However crunching by using the top segments of the rectus abdomini is a bit difficult to achieve without creating too much tension in my breathing. I need to work on that. What about pulling the top of the pubic bone to bring the pelvis to neutral, align with xyphoid process and keep breathing?

AnnMerle Feldman

I too had developed a habit of thrusting my ribs forward and when back pain finally developed and my psoas was short, tight and inflamed, I began the long slow process of learning how to hold my torso properly. When I teach this in my classes, my students love to lean against the wall in horse and press the back of their ribs into the wall and draw the front of their ribs in. They are always surprised at how hard this is and how unusual it feels. It is truly a body blind spot for many bodies.

Rachel T.

Me too! I never realized how much until Jill’s cue to match the ovals of the pelvis and rib cage over one another and it felt like the weirdest thing in the whole world but also felt SO good. Talk about a blind spot! I had become aware of the fact that I trusted in down dog about 3 years ago but never thought that it translated to standing. But, now I know the way I do anything is the way I do everything and have to remind myself every few minutes it seems like. New normal will feel normal… Read more »

Amy Moore

I am grateful for the picture for a reference. I recently felt like I had become a bit of a rib thruster because of my yoga practice and the cues i was given to open my heart, without being told to keep this from just being a thrust from the ribs. Thank you for the information.

Sarah R

I am also a rib thruster. It began in childhood when I danced and got worse when I begun practicing yoga. Thanks for including the pictures. It’s helpful to see the difference in the alignment of the rib cage.

Amie Alapeteri

Hi! Excellent blog! I’ve been working on reigning in the ribs for a while now, and it’s a work in progress. I’m currently in a YTU training, and I’ve just found a new style of Tadasana, which reminds me that I a still, even in a relaxed state, thrusting my ribs. It’s better, but needs a lot of daily work! I’ve brought this to my students to work on as well, and often cue to “braid the ribs” or “pull the lower ribs in”.

Sue Paterson

I need really straightforward cues to get this, and your xyphoid process over pubic bone does it for me. Thank you. I, too, have been a chronic rib-thruster for so long, and I have noticed how it compromises good belly breathing for me. Of course, this is connected to so many other imbalances that ripple throughout the body, this is a good one to focus on.

Nicole

I had become aware of the fact that I was a chronic rounder, and in an attempt to correct that I have somehow become a rib thruster… not chronic, because I noticed it much more quickly, but still. I love this alignment cue of the xyphoid process over the pubic bone! quick, easy, and straight forward. Thank you!

Michelle Preyde

True confession…. I am also a rib thruster. I am always working on correcting this. I think your descriptive of stacking the xyphoid process over the pubic bone is the most helpful so far for me. Thanks!!

Samantha Martin

Thanks for sharing these great tips. I too am a chronic rib thruster and have been working on correcting it for sometime…just need to continue. I really think with the tips you mentioned and that I learned in the Level 1 Training, I’ll be on my way to actually fixing this issue. I appreciate the info that you shared and it’s always reasuring to know other people deal with the same issue.

Kim

Dagmar, Thank you for your honest share of the reasons for your rib thrusting. It brought to my awareness the fact that yes we do sometimes consciously distortion our posture or do “funny things” to our bodies to avoid emotional pain. I too am a rib thruster and while I had a yoga teacher point it out, a rolfer point it out and even had someone tell me I was “gross” for jutting my ribs and chin forward when I spoke – it wasn’t until the level 1 YTU training and the exact cue that you shared “xyphoid process over… Read more »

Karen Smereka

I’m in the rib thrusting club too. I was a natural one to begin with and then the yoga instruction to move my shoulders back and retract my shoulder blades for almost every move compounded the problem. As a result, my psoas became shorter and when I sit I would hing more than needed so that my rib cage was quite a bit over my hips. This makes my hip flexors sore! The tubular core is my new friend although it is taking a lot of work to do this action without a lot of tension in my shoulders, neck… Read more »

Amelia

I am a rib thruster and definintely have weak stomach muscles! Tubularizing my core is really hard for me!!

Sara

I really resonate with this post Dagmar as it is something that I do and have done for a long time thinking (incorrectly) that it was good posture. I now find it very difficult to do any shoulder mobility exercises without feeling the chronic effects of this long held posture and I’ve found it very difficult to rectify as I feel it needs lots of retraining.

Emma McAtasney

Dagmar I read this a little while ago. I always felt there was more to my postural misalignment than an anterior tiled pelvis. I have been consciously trying to maintain correct alignment throughout my entire day, initially beginning by aligning my pelvis but since reading this article and aligning my upper back and ribcage I have felt so much stronger! I am amazed! I feel like my core strength has increased and my upper back tension is relieving. Thank you!

Charles

this is great. i am a big time rib thirster as my chest has an indentation since birth and as a way of “correcting” it around the guys, especially in sports i was used to thrusting it out. same self consciousness different gender. i am looking forward to reading your how to fix. am in the level one as I write this.

C

Lorraine

I have to be mindful as well about knitting my ribs together and avoiding the thrust. I never realized it was bad until pointed out to me in yoga. You gave some good cues with lining up the xyphoid process with the pubic bone and the tubular core also helps me correct my thrusting forward. As I worked on my handstands, it made a tremendous difference when I was given the cue “hollow body” which helps draw the ribs in and down.

Ashlyn Medina

Thank you for this article and for being so thorough and informative. I’m a very visual person, so once I saw the pictures you posted I thought, “Oh yes! I know exactly what rib thrusting is!”. I see many of my students stand and even sit in the asanas in this way and have known it needs to be corrected, but have not had the cues to help them fully understand how and why to make this change. Now that I understand what’s happening under the skin (i.e. over extension in the spine and anterior tilting in the pelvis) and… Read more »

Alison Higgins

Thank you so much for your post Dagmar. It was very informative and yet a bit alarming to read because I have been doing this since I was around the age of 12 as well. It is so common in our culture to deform our bodies in the name of fashion or to look “skinny,” and I find it helpful to have blogs out there like this to read. I just wish younger children would understand the amount of damage that this can do to your body over time. Thank you again for this. -A fellow Chronic Rib Thruster

Jared Cohen

As i coach, i dont think there is anything that i cue more than “rib cage down,” so i really appreciate this new way of being able to articulate the organized spine: ‘’doing an abdominal crunch’ with the top segments of your rectus abdominus-without actually crunching!” Im sensing a cueing theme in yogatuneup land that is cueing the behavior of an action without actually doing that action.

Glenda Garcia

I can also relate to the rib thrusting… When I became aware of my misalignment, I realized that the biggest impact it had was on my ability to adequately sequence my breath. Not only were my stomach muscles weak, my spine unsupported and misaligned, but my muscles were confused! I had lost the ability to breathe without stressing out my diaphragm, upper back and neck, making it hard to actually allow breath to come in to the body. I have been working for several years now on releasing tension in my tissues and re-educating my body to undo the rib… Read more »

Lisa Hebert

Oh, how many of us have reorganized our structure to try to fit a certain ideal we have attached to? This speaks volumes to the power of learning about our own anatomy and it’s functions- not only learning HOW a body can be organized for optimal alignment, by WHY, and what happens when it isn’t.

Rebecca Minsley

I also have the habit of thrusting my ribs forward. I have a hyper-mobile back and so from as far back as i can remember I used to like to stand with my pelvis in a anterior tilt, my ribs going anteriorly, my shoulders going posteriorly and my head thrusting forward. So I was always standing in a back bend with a strain in my neck. With my back like this, my legs also hyperextend, so needless to say my posture was not straight. I started to dance ballet and this helped a lot with my posture except I had… Read more »

Larry Mims

Thank you for this article, I see this very often in many young women that come to my personal training sessions. I’ll ask the students to place their hands over their ribcage while they are lying on their back. I’ll ask them to Inhale through the nose, feeling the ribs open laterally. Upon exhalation (which I ask them to force out of their mouth), I ask them to guide the ribs close. This technic work very well with my clients.

Lara

As a fellow rib thruster, I find this very helpful, Dagmar. I am lining up my xphoid process over my pubic bone as I type! And no sign of that rib thrusting of yours at class today – it’s inspiring to see how you have corrected this in your body. I trust I can do the same. Looking forward to learning more!