Day 13 - Making a Mother of You All with Kent Bond - Opening the Heart
For Mother’s Day I am giving you all a baby.
The heart resides in the thoracic cavity. It has the ribcage, sternum, spine, and diaphragm as its 360-degree nest. These things are knit together with muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The heart is adored by the body; the body needs the heart, and so the body goes out of its way to protect it.
As do we. I, for example, have so many ways of protecting my heart. One way is to not fully invest my heart in a romantic relationship or a in a job or when buying a lottery ticket. That way, I think I’m keeping my heart safe in its nest of me. I internally rotate my shoulders so my upper body caves in a bit. I curve around my heart instead of standing tall and having my heart be an easy target.
Another way to guard the heart is to take shallow breaths, keeping the nest on lockdown. This means the lungs are affected as they now have less space to inflate. This means your brain is affected because it is getting less oxygen. So, you may feel your heart is safe, but it’s literally dying for air.
Your body cradles this being, this handful of pulse, and it is your blessed child, your baby to nurture and feed.
So Happy Mother’s Day. You and I get to open our hearts. It's time to free the baby.
To avoid setting of guarding mechanisms in your musculature, go slowly. Don’t do anything that hurts. Muscle guarding is a protective response against pain or fear. Many adoptees live in a guarded state, and they have a body that knows holding far better than it knows a relaxation.
If you were born and your mother disappeared, it’s right and natural to freak out and tense. In an ideal world, that freak out and tense reaction would pass, but since relinquishment and adoption tend to involve one wild thing (New foster home! New food! New people!) after another, the body starts to think muscular tension is home base and that becomes your natural state.
(You certainly don’t have to be relinquished to experience this. Life can do it to anyone.)
Just as it’s easier to bend over and pick up a dropped pencil when your hamstrings are long and relaxed, it’s generally easier and more efficient to live in a body that is more fluid than rigid. It’s easier to turn your head, to sit, to stand, to reach for a book on a high shelf. It’s easier to play strip poker.
This, then, is part three of the Kent Bond series on body rolling and stretching. Welcome to your heart, your sweet baby.
The following is a lightly edited version of what Kent said to me:
When it comes to guarding the heart, part of it is the emotional posture we get from our parents and our experiences. It also has a lot to do with how you move during the day. You, for example, are a massage therapist and so your shoulders will be internally rotated because of the work you do.
The pectoralis major muscles are big, but the pec minor is the thing that lifts the shoulders and intensifies the internal rotation (rolling your shoulder forward, as if you are trying to hide).
You can come at stretching the pec minor a couple of different ways: you can use a tightly rolled-up towel or yoga mat. You want a thin cylinder because you’ll be laying the roll under the thoracic spine (the part of your spine involving the ribs), and this part of the spine has the spinous processes, the little bones on either side of the spine that press into each other and impede your ability to get a backbend and open the chest.
If you start with that roll just below the shoulder blades at the bra or bro strap level, you open your arms out on the floor (imitate Skinny on the attached photo), and then you stay there for a few minutes and breathe. This is what in a passive way, in a yin way, will let you start to open these tissues. (Yin postures are typically held for 5-10 minutes, so get comfortable.)
Most people tend to make the roll too thick, and if you have chronic tightness in your thoracic spine you’ll be really uncomfortable in this positon. If there is any pain or discomfort, make the roll tighter. You might need a soft piece of foam instead, also. There are those pieces of foam you see covering the ropes in a swimming pool. They are about two inches in diameter and are soft. You could try one of those. I keep one with me in the car and use it to help support my back. I move it around. I can move it vertically. When it’s horizontal, I like it higher rather than lower rather than having it right on the lumbar spine, I have it a little higher so it increases my lordodic curve in the lumbar spine. (You have a lordodic curve when you pop your booty out like you mean it.)
If you can’t breathe, you’re in too deep. The breath is the barometer. Everyone will have a different experience. A great thing about this is that it might help expand your ability to breathe. Where your rib joints attach to the sternum can become rigid and this tightness constricts your ability to take air into the longs and it also constricts the ability of the heart to pump.
When we stretch these intercostals, the connective tissue between the ribs, we’re given more freedom to your lungs and your heart.
You can also use a softer ball (see the one in the picture that heads this post) and do the same exercise.
Starting small and doing something passive like this is such a great way to start.
If the head is tilted while you do this, place a folded towel or small pillow under the skull to keep the face parallel to the breastbone so the neck will be nice and long.
The other thing I would do is, you can use a tennis ball, and you can go to a corner of a room where you can lean forward on the ball against the wall, and put the tennis ball under the clavicle, so it starts to release the subclavius (a little chest muscle that can get really tight) and the pectoralis. If you have larger breasts, you can put a block or a blanket on the wall to bring the ball closer to you.
I would start with direct pressure and then move very slowly to see how it feels—you can do stripping, cross fiber (the same movements described in the Part 1 with the foot).
Another thing that works well is that I can just passively lift and lower the arm that is on the same side of the body as the ball. That gives you a delicious stretch. You can also do the pin and spin where you grab hold of the ball with the opposite hand and gently twist it so it stretches the skin beneath it.
You want to be careful with the pressure. A little goes a long way. Two or three times a week for few minutes a session can change your body. If you are sore the day after, take it easy. A little sore is okay, but if the pain is lasting more than 24 hours you’ve probably done too much.
If your heart has been broken it may seem foolish to want to open it, but death is the time for your heart to whither and your body to cave in around it. You are alive now, and it’s your job to nurture the baby inside of you.
If you get very still, you can feel your heart moving. You can hear it beating.
Listen. That is your body telling you how much you are loved.
See you tomorrow.