Last Monday, the TS Team had an opportunity to meet with an exceptional, and unique physical therapist, Connor Ryan, from a sports-based practice called Drive 495 in SoHo. Connor uses a system based on PRI, the practice of restoring functional posture, and he strongly believes in the healing benefits of breathing techniques. He can tie a connection from body dysfunction to faulty breathing patterns for many individuals coming to him for therapy. In our meeting, he challenged our anatomy knowledge, tested our own breathing patterns, and helped us understand why breathing can both heal, and cause disfunction in the body.
I was blown away by both his knowledge of the body and passion for helping us learn.
We worked with Connor for probably an hour and a half and just barely skimmed the surface of what he does for his clients. I knew I wanted more time to work with him and learn more about his breathing theories. There was just so much I had yet to understand.
With so much information we had left to cover, Connor graciously and enthusiastically invited us to his studio to continue our workshop. We hoped Connor could provide a different approach to some chronic shoulder discomfort i’ve had for a long time due to mild scoliosis. I was hopeful, intrigued, yet a little skeptic since i’ve seen a number of physical therapists in the past. Connor picked back up right where he left off with his enthusiasm in teaching us what he was looking for.
First, he put me through an SFMA assessment, a movement based diagnostic system designed to clinically assess fundamental movement patterns in those with known musculoskeletal pain. Then he did some manual work to release my occipital muscles (right at the point where your neck reaches your skull), he retested my movements, and then did manual work in my lats. After the manual work, he made me breathe.
But this was no ordinary breathing exercise.
Due to the downward rotation in my right shoulder, the flaring of my left rib cage, and the tightness in my left hip, Connor had me counteract my natural posture and then breathe into a balloon to control and focus on deep exhales and inhales. His theory is that the way I hold myself and move throughout the day creates a breathing pattern where I breathe mostly into one side of my body, causing weakness and disfunction throughout. He proved this by literally holding down my rib cage on one side, making me breathe, and then showing me how much more difficult it was to do it on the other side.
The picture above shows one technique he used to counteract my natural posture and breathing patterns by “forcing” my breath into areas it wouldn’t naturally go before. It took a lot of work to meet his cues, but I eventually got what he was looking for and could feel for myself how, with practice, I could teach my body to breathe into different areas of my torso.
Another technique he used involved me being on my hands and knees, with one hand propped up on a block to even out the visible imbalance in my shoulders. Again, I had to breathe into a balloon. The elevation of my arm that created a flatness of my back allowed me to breathe into my back equally on both sides, something I clearly am not able to do in my current posture. It felt really good to breathe that way, but was difficult nonetheless. We both knew I had a lot of work left to do and he gave me some great tools and knowledge to take home.
I have such a deep respect for Connor and his practice. I feel that breathing is often overlooked and mistaught as a form of healing. It made so much sense to me that by breathing into my current posture I am just perpetuating the curve in my back which causes that dull pain that’s always there. I know that this is no easy fix, but I’m confident in the exercises he gave me, the effectiveness of his breathing theories, and a newfound awareness of my body and breath.
We were very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to visit Connor and learn from his work and hope to help our own clients at TS Fitness by applying our new knowledge.