The trachea is anterior to the esophagus. You can feel the trachea when you touch your hand to the front of your own throat. It contains cartilaginous rings to hold open the airway. The trachea connects to the bronchi, which lead to each lung. The trachea is an important part of the respiratory system. Behind the trachea, is the esophagus--a muscular tube. It doesn't contain cartilaginous rings. However, the muscles are needed because peristalsis, a wavelike motion originates in the esophagus. It is this movement that helps push the food down to the stomach. The esophagus is the tube that connects the oral cavity or mouth, to the stomach and is part of the digestive system.