I'm often surprised by how few people here in this little mountain village, full of athletes and wanna be athletes; who seem to have great control over their bodies and know so much about the terrain they're on, know so little about fascia. This is my summary on this juicy topic. I will be holding workshops in the not too distant future, so watch this space.
Fascia is the connective tissue that binds and holds all the many magic ingredients contained within our bodies together, so that these body parts form a whole.
For many many years anatomists were cutting away this connective tissue, to reveal what they were looking for. This has left a gaping whole in the education around fascia as we are beginning to know it, exactly because the institutions who have based their way of educating on the initial way of looking at the human body with a scalpel removing anything they weren't looking for which meant fascia missed out. According to Robert Schleip she is the cinderella tissue of our body, so neglected and forgotten.
Fascia is a body wide networking matrix, which connects everything to everything else; it holds our shape (and perhaps even our essence). I is the reason why we can move the way we can, but perhaps not always do....
It links everything from superficial (skin), to muscles, bones, nerves & blood vessels, to visceral think of the casings around your organs, such as the pleura of the lungs; the fabric surrounding or encasing the lungs or the pericardium (the fabric that surrounds the heart) Ever wondered why the heart can feel tight in moments of sadness or whilst re-experiencing trauma?
This beautiful tissue does more than provide a structure. Fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, it tightens up, it becomes sticky and can thicken. Think of the bone you broke years ago and how it has grown back thicker to help protect the damage that was done.
It’s designed to elongate and contract back to the original shape as you move your body. When you lift the skin on your hand, you'll notice it sticks together for (hopefully) a short second or so before sliding back down becoming your hand again.
Injury and Trauma can cause fascia to thicken, which would lead to limit in mobility and can cause tightness and painful knots. If there is a small snag along the lines of the myofascial pull or force transmission, such as those provided by scar tissue or adhesions, these can have surprising functional consequences, often quite a way a way from the damaged site.
Ever wondered why the right shoulder pain, may actually come from an injury in the left foot?
The body is a beautiful tensegrity system, allowing the bones to float; in a healthy body they do not compress on one another, they have many and various layers of fascial sheaths and webbing surrounding and running through the body; from bones to muscles into tendons + ligaments to much deeper. It is no wonder that after a yoga movement class we can get glimpses into this whole body feeling. We are more often than not taught to think of our body in terms of different body parts, that we forget to feel ourselves as One Whole + Complete Body.
According to my teachers, fascia holds your proprioceptive sense (where you are in space and has a networking quality to it, it is a great communicator, simply put it informs your muscles to how and when to move. What is less obvious to the eye is that fascia is invested throughout muscles and forms layers in between and around, which set the muscles into action by lengthening and or contracting. For a long time the term fascia was only given to areas like plantar fascia (on the heel-bone to base of the toes) or lumbar fascia (the dense tissue along the base of your spine). But we've come along way with science and instead of removing this miraculous tissue, we now want to honour, celebrate it + learn from it, which is why I'm surprised still so few people know about it. But this will change.
Workshops coming soon.
Keeping the fascia healthy so you can feel good is of course the challenge.
You can imagine what it does to a body to be stuck in the same position for hours or even just minutes on end. We hydrate the tissue by moving intelligently. We shouldn't sit for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Consider life pre computers, cars or even chairs. We would have had to been hunting to get our breakfast, moving around often no comfy mattresses or cushions, but I think we would have been in deep resting states a lot more too.
Remind yourself to move whenever you've been stuck at your desk for hours on end..
Fascia can be irritated by many factors such as
trauma- past or present (falls, blows)
surgery (scarring, adhesions)
mechanical stress (posture, repetitive movements)
These insults may induce biochemical changes in the connective tissue which will, in turn, have effects on its viscoelastic properties. Its density may increase, the collagen fibres will tend to align along the axis of the lines of force and the tissue will lose elasticity."
- Doreen Killens; Ignite Physio Blog
When training your fascia questions to ask yourself;
Can I find pleasure in movement?
Can I do this with more ease?
Am I moving efficiently + intelligently?
Fascia likes refinement of movements, spring-loading, breath-work, but also movements such as recoil and rebound, spiralling, sliding and extending your movements along the entire lines of pull, from right toes all the way to your left fingers.
Developing your proprioceptive sense is massively important for your fascia.
Take a look at the Maasai tribe people run, all on ball of the foot, light as a feather, much like a gazelle in flight, with skinny calves another proof that it ain't the muscles doing all the work.
Something to consider; our anatomy is built to run. This preferably would be done on a rugged uneven terrain which helps us increase our proprioception and not on concrete or pavements if you can at all avoid. More awareness means less injuries. How you move is up to you wether is walking or running, biking, swimming or climbing, yoga is great but it's not enough on it's own. And I'm particularly allergic to doing the same sequences over and over again. Use your creative brain and or use someone else's; I have a video library full of unique movement classes.
Monkeys in the wild don't suffer from arthritis.
Under-usage of joints is what causes arthritis.
So consider loading the joints in different ways.
Let's get creative, don't do the same thing all the time.
Next time you go to the fridge open it with your foot, brush your teeth with your left hand and turn the light off with your big toe.
I hope that you'll le me move you the way your fascia wants to be moved...
The incredible images are from Joanne Avison's book
Yoga Fascia Anatomy & Movement
Which is well worth a read, her writing and understanding of fascia anatomy in movement is ingenious making these complex topics both fascinating and graspable. It was a huge honour to model for her in these images for her book.