Let’s Give Some TLC to Your TVT!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, than you’ve already heard me raving about what I blast I had going through the Yoga Tune Up (YTU) Level 1 Training in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. I mean, meeting Jill Miller (the creator of Yoga Tune Up) was reward enough, but doing an entire training. Lemme just tell…it was phenomenal!
A for those of you that are like “what on earth kind of yoga is that?!”
Allow me to quickly explain. It’s a form of what we like to call conscious fitness which helps you live better in your body.
Ya ever look at your body and think, “why won’t you just listen to me?!”. Yep. I get it and so does YTU. That’s basically why it was created. It helps you both find and address those exact spots that just won’t listen, or in the words of Katy Bowman, your body “blind, deaf and dumb spots”. These are the very same ones that are over-used, under-used, mis-used or abused to the point that they’re causing stress and pain and injury. The unique blend of corrective exercise, yoga, body therapy and self massage techniques that are Yoga Tune Up work together ingeniously to literally re-knit your body from the inside out. That means pains get erased, postures get re-aligned and muscular performance gets reinvigorated. You’re basically creating a body that feels great to be in. It’s really neat stuff. And, you can read plenty more about it HERE.
About a week before I attended the actual training, my Coregeous DVD arrived in the mail. It basically improves the way the muscles of your function on a biomechanical level in order to better support your spine and your entire torso. to I can’t even describe how much I loved and learned from that video. But do you want to know the one concept that kept rolling around in my brain after I ran through that video for the first time? Well, it was the transversus thoracis.
A small, but mighty muscle that often flies under the radar
Now, if you’ve had any education whatsoever in the anatomy world, then you’ve probably guessed that it lies somewhere in the Thorax. And if you did, you’d be absolutely right. In fact, if we were to say this muscle’s name in English it would actually be “crosswise muscle of the chest.” In Latin, “Trans” means “across, beyond and through” and “Vertere” means “to turn”. “Thoracis” comes from the Greek word “Thorakos” which means “breast plate or chest”.
So, why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because this muscle very literally defines the concept of “what’s in a name”. It is, in many senses a crosswise breast plate on the inside of the thoracic wall (i.e. your chest cavity) whose purpose is both to propel and protect that which gives us life: our breath.
Let me tell you how and why. The Transversus Thoracis, or the TVT (as I’m going to refer to it from here on out), is located on the posterior surface of the sternum. It originates on the dorsal surface of the xiphoid process and body of the sternum (the lower three costosternal junctions to be exact). And, it inserts into the third through sixth ribs (or costal cartilages). The tendons run craniolaterally, which just basically means that when you look at it head on, it looks like you’ve got a gigantic spider on your chest.
This Arachnid-Like Muscle Actually Helps You Breath
Aside from the fact that this muscle is already cool in my book because it looks like an arachnid, it’s main function actually is purely aesthetic. When we inhale, the muscles of inspiration, such as the intercostals, the diaphragm and in this case, the TVT all expand in order to create space for the newly arrived molecules of O2. It’s when you go to exhale out all of that old CO2 that the TVT does the bulk it’s work. At this point in the respiratory cycle, the TVT contracts pulling the rib cartilage down and compressing the chest cavity in order to fully empty the lungs.
Pretty neat, right? Want to know what irks me about this muscle? It’s the fact that I keep reading over and over again that it’s an “accessory muscle” of expiration (i.e. breathing out). I even read that “…people may have a poorly developed one and show no breathing difficulties.”
Well, I’m here to call BS on both of those statements. Because, it also turns out that it’s one of the most variable muscles in the human body. You see, the exact number of tendons and places of insertion vary greatly from one person to another, which brings a whole lot of truth to the former statement. In fact for those people whose TVTs are spazzing out, it can create a sensation of pain at the chest broadly categorized as “costochondritis”. Trust me. I know. I’m one of them.
Moving on. One last interesting feature about the TVTs is that it’s fibers actually run about parallel to those of the Transversus Abdominus (TVA), a deep abdominal muscle which people often describe to look kind of like a girdle that encircles your abdomen. This next thing I’m about to mention is SUPER rare, but it has been known to happen. The TVT and the TVA can actually merge together, which I’m sure is quite an unpleasant experience. So all the more reason to take care of your TVT. Right?
Share Some TLC With Your TVT using the Coregeous Ball
Why am I even bothering to spew all of this knowledge on latin root words and breathing and muscles potentially merging together? Because although breathing is something we’re forced to learn to do as soon as we leave the womb, it’s not something we generally practice mastering…at least not the way we dedicate time to things like strengthening our backs to lift larger loads overhead, or lengthening our hip muscles because they get shortened from sitting at desks the majority of the day.
Breathing is something we often take for granted, and bad breathing techniques brought on by muscles that freak out on you, like for instance you’re TVT, create bigger and uglier body “blind, deaf and dumb spots” that often manifest themselves as pains (that we’re probably all too familiar with) in the neck, shoulders and chest (to name but a few).
Now, I’m not here to dump a pile of gloom on you. That’s just not my style, thankfully 🙂 Keeping your TVT super supple isn’t actually a huge pain in the…chest. It’s easy and even fun…because let’s face it, life is simply that much easier when you can actually breath.
I’m nearly done, with my certification, but I literally just couldn’t wait to show you this short video on how I like to use the Coregeous Ball, one of the many Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls (i.e. tools used for self-massage), to relieve existing tension at your TVT. Check it out below and keep this song lyric by Andre 3000 & Big Boi of Outkast in mind while you do it:
“…it’s all about that…[sense]…in yo chest…this the joint.”
*If you don’t have a Yoga Tune Up Coregeous ball, use a rolled up towel in the meantime
*Start slow and work your way up. Only do a few of these if you’ve never done this kind of work before.
*Assess your breath. Do the therapy ball work. Assess again.