the diaphragms

by julee snyder

We have now completed our introductory series through the skeletal structures of the body and their applications to yoga.  Next, we will turn to the horizontal supporting structures in the body, the diaphragms.  These include the soles of the feet, the pelvic floor, the breathing diaphragm, the thoracic inlet, the shoulder diaphragm, dome of the armpit, the palm of the hand, the throat diaphragm, the pallatte, and the cranial diaphragms.  There are also mini-diaphragms in the knees and elbows.  Most of these structure are muscular, some not.  Most are concrete and others more subtle.  They are all part of the container systems of the body.

Wendy LeBlanc-Arbunkle, a yoga and Pilates practitioner in Austin, TX, refers to the diaphragms as “Domes of Uplift”.  Yoga refers to them as bandhas and, in some cases, mudras.  We will examine each with a BMC approach, looking at the anatomy from a western perspective and then going into our sensation to explore their application to yoga.

Take a moment to look at the movements of the jellyfish in this video.  Notice how the center relates to the periphery to create a doming pulsation that propels them through the water.  This is an early form of locomotion.  Begin with your hand.   As you observe the jellyfish, begin to mimic this movement with your own hand.  Let that movement pulse through your whole body.  Then one-by-one, go through each of the diaphragm locations and find a similar jellyfish undulation.  After this becomes more familiar, start to coordinate them, undulating from multiple diaphragms at once.  Now take it into asana.  How does it inform your poses?  Try it in both large and small ways.

The Parachute Game
One of the key ideas in the diaphragms is much like the parachute game many of us played as children.  Remember, all the kids held the edges of the parachute and when we all threw our hands up in the air, the center of the parachute dropped down at first and then would rise up when we pulled the edges down to the ground creating a dome of uplift.  Similarly, when we root the edges of our diaphragms down into the earth, the center has the ability to buoyantly lift upwards toward the crown of the head.  Come into standing and begin to root down the four points of each foot and feel the corresponding lift up through the arches.  Continue in this way to stack your diaphragms and feel yourself in alignment with the forces of gravity and levity.

More soon on each diaphragm!
Happy practicing!