What is fascia and why should you care?


Simply put fascia is a thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing all of your muscles, organs and internal structures, I’ll say that again… enclosing ALL of your internal structures. Every single muscle and structure of your body is surrounded by the interconnected tissue network of your fascia. Research has shown that even our more non tangible energy channels often referred to as nerve endings in Western medicine, Nadis in Indian medicine, and meridians in traditional Chinese medicine run through our fascia. Because of this the structure and functioning of your entire body, physical and energetic is affected by the malleability or rigidity of your fascia.

When it comes to envisioning your fascia there are many different imagery comparisons out there that I find helpful. Some will refer to it as cling film-like substance, the internal spider-web of connective tissue or the woven sweater of our insides, possibly most notably is Gil Hedleys description as the “fuzz” filling up every open space of our internal systems.  If you picture an orange, it is not that dissimilar to the transparent layer of skin that surrounds each and every segment. It is thin white layer beneath the skin, similar to what you see when you prepare a raw chicken breast.

Regardless of how you envision it, it is quite literally what holds us together. And in my humble opinion the most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings, but it is actually one continuous structure that exists within us from the tip of our heads to the very ends of our toes without interruption. Meaning that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by your fascia, and like the yarn in a sweater if you pull on one end it’s going to affect the other. In the normal healthy state, fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration and has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. It offers support and reduces friction within the body during any and all movement.

Now in a perfect world we would all have free flowing fascia with no restrictions or adhesions within the system but we most certainly don’t live in a perfect world and I can only speak for myself but I know I am definitely not a perfect being. I would also guess that one of the reasons you come to your yoga or pilates classes is because you would also agree with my last statement …. A quote that I have heard from a handful of teachers over the years that has stuck with me is that “our issues live in our tissues” and if our fascia surrounds all of our tissues when it becomes damaged this will influence how we feel on both a physical and energetic level.

Our fascial tissue can become stuck, tight, restricted, develop adhesions and just cause general tension in the body due to repetitive holding patterns, habitual compensations, previous injury, and trauma (both physical and emotional). Fascial restrictions can affect our flexibility, stability and have a factor in our ability to withstand physical stresses and perform daily activities. Because this system has no starting or stopping point when we develop these restrictions in one area of the body they will have an affect on other areas as well.

To help ease some of these tensions or adhesions we turn to fascial release work. This can be done in a variety of ways. Now don’t get me wrong, there is definitely something to be said for all of the stretching that we do throughout any general yoga or pilates class. Stretching the muscles and joints will certainly help release fascial tightness but sometimes it’s nice to dig a little bit deeper. That’s where manual release work done through self massage (or massage therapy) comes into play. Manual release is one of the best ways I’ve found to work with the fascia and is hugely beneficial for the general health and wellbeing of the body. By practicing fascial release we work we are not only affecting the fascia but everything that it comes in contact with (which is pretty much all of our insides!) as a result, the muscles, ligament and energetic pathways of our bodies will also feel a sense of ease and release. Gentle compression and pressure from either ball rolling, foam rolling, or massage therapy will help to smooth out the fascial tissue and restore a sense of freedom within our bodies.

I think it’s important to mention that this is not quick work. We may be addressing areas that have been holding onto trauma for a really long time! Time and breath are truly the essential elements. It takes time for the body to relax, and we can't target the fascia if the body isn’t relaxed.  According to the the piezoelectric phenomenon: a low load (gentle pressure) applied slowly over time will allow a viscoelastic medium (fascia) to elongate. And when it comes to the nervous system tapping into our deep breathwork will help calm the fight or flight response that so many of us are chronically in. The longer we linger with the work, the deeper we can go into the subtle body, beyond what is known as "superficial" fascia and into the deep fascia.  Just like anything else, it can take time and patience to truly let go. But why not give it a shot?

I would be thrilled to lead you through 2hrs of self massage and fascial release work on December 15th at Yoga Bhoga.