The F Word

This is a long over due post. Anyone who comes to my yoga classes or in close vicinity of me knows that fascia, the f word, is one of my favourite words.

Fascia is sometimes called the holding organ of the body, but it is more than that, it is everywhere within us and completely connected to itself. It separates, supports and connects the muscles, so that they are both continuous with each other but also independent. Our bodies in fact are really a structure of fascia in to which cells and organs and skin all fit together.

Fascia is made up of densely packed collagen fibres and fibroblasts, and has both an elastic and a strong fibre component. It can hold huge amounts of pressure and stress while also elastically flexing and stretching. It’s our richest sense organ and possesses the ability to contract independently from the muscles it surrounds and it responds to stress without your conscious command. So fascia, whether you like it or not, impacts your movements.

In its healthy state it’s smooth and supple and slides easily, allowing you to move and stretch to your full length in any direction, always returning back to its normal state. Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that your fascia maintains its optimal flexibility, shape or texture. Lack of activity will cement the once-supple fibres into place. Chronic stress causes the fibres to thicken in an attempt to protect the underlying muscle. Poor posture (which we all have to some degree) and repetitive movements (think chatarangas in vinysasa flow) pull the fascia into ingrained patterns. Fascia also holds memory – it remembers all the past events of our lives, and if any of those events are in some way traumatic (accidents, surgery, emotions) this manifests in the fascia, so that it loses it’s pliability and responds with tension. Eventually adhesions form within the stuck and damaged fibres like velcro, and once they’ve formed they’re hard to get rid of.

These adhesions in the fascia cause a number of symptoms, some of which are; pain, lack of flexiblity, loss of range of motion, shortening of muscles, weak muscles, pulling on tendons or tendonitis. Nerves can become trapped causing acute pain, tingling, numbness.

Enter myofascia release.

Myofascia release removes adhesions, restores tissue integrity and promotes the free flow of communication through the tissues. It breaks down the collagenous cross links which are responsible for fibrotic scarring and trigger points – sometimes called deformation – and this is followed by a cycle of inflammation, repair and remodelling. The fascial tissues reorganize themselves and work more effectively; restoring range of motion, hydration, neuromuscular connections and improved circulation. . Pain miraculously disappears, postures return to normal and the body moves towards equilibrium and balance. You feel young and supple and light.

Myfoscial release comes in several types and forms, gentle long held stretches, (a la yin yoga), other techniques may be a little more painful (and it depends how much of a masochist you are!) like compression, rolling, contracting and relaxing, pinning & stretching, cross fibre-ing. It’s a little difficult to explain all the methods but the good news is I am intending to incorporate them in my yin classes. As if you needed a reason to come to yin yoga!

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