We started the massage and once I had my hands on him and instructed him to take a few deep breaths, I immediately knew that his breathing was dysfunctional. Instead of expanding through the chest and ribs, his breath was pushed down and out through his belly.
Now, belly breathing isn't necessarily dysfunctional. Yoga classes often incorporate belly breaths into class because it grounds and expands the breath throughout the body, but in this case, his body was doing belly breaths exclusively through the belly from a place of survival. This pattern had shut down the ribs' ability to expand and contract, thereby affecting how the overlying structures, like the rhomboids and scapulas, were functioning, and this was creating the knots and tightness in his shoulders.
The other aspect of this dysfunctional breathing pattern goes back to his days of playing several impact sports through high school. He played soccer, hockey, and wrestling and had developed the tendency to hold his breath and brace for impact. This tendency translated into his body deciding, "This is how we deal with life- we hold our breath and wait for the impact."
This holding pattern was established while he was a teenager now it repeats itself as he navigates a stressful job, a pregnant and birthing wife, the responsibilities of fatherhood and being a provider, and now caring for a new baby.
So even though the problem is in his shoulders- that's where he experiences tightness and pain- what's actually happening is the limitation of the lungs, ribs, and breath to fully expand and contract and do their job providing a solid foundation for the structure and function of the ribs through the breath cycle, and integrate and accept the natural flow of life.
We made several releases, restored and balanced his body's view of dealing with life, and we were able to achieve quite a bit of expansion through the ribs and clavicle during inhalation, which in turn easily released the knots in the back and shoulders. He got off the table feeling immensely better and breathing deeper and ready for another session!