What is it & how does it affect me? Why should I care?
The fascinating fascia! 😉
Most people have never heard of it yet it is literally in every nook and cranny of our bodies, head to toe.
What if I told you the fascia holds the key to the shape & flexibilty of your body? Well it plays a major role…
The fascia can be the source of many physical and emotional issues.
One of the keys to having an efficient metabolism, improving posture, and reduce pain is by having a body that is in correct alignment. So where do you start when you want to achieve proper body alignment?
It starts with fascia!
When they mentioned Fascia at my yoga teacher training in the USA 7 years ago & took out a web like product to demonstrate consistency, it was the first time I heard the word mentioned.
When we think about flexibility and tension in the body, we naturally think about the joint mobility and muscles. The fascia is a live tissue, made of callogen and elastin, attached to your muscles, bones, ligaments, blood vessels, joints, wrapped around all your organs. It is in fact holding it all together and looks like a spiders web under a microscope. Think of a spiders web and it’s mesh like structure. Not to over simplify, but if you pull on one end of the web, it’s many interwoven connections will cause a pull on the other end. Now imagine that web going through your entire body, all the way from your head to your toes. It is effectively the stocking of the body. When the fascia becomes tight, sticky with adhesions, it pulls on the attached muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments causing imbalance.
Physical trauma to the body but also prolonged sitting, lack of movement, poor posture, dehydration, stress, inflammatory diet, lack of sleep can negatively affect the fascia. A common problem with fascia is it’s conditioning to work in a particular way. So like anything, if we do the same movement over and over again (like sitting), the body adapts and so forms adhesions and will tighten up, which results in reduced mobility and flexibility in the body. When the fascia itself tightens up, this is what can cause muscle strains and injuries. A reason why the body loves a variety in movement.
One restriction can lead to another.
Some key points about the Fascia:
Restricted fascia can cause aches and pains, imbalance and mind, body, and soul discomfort.
Restoring the fascia back to its truest and happiest form can create a huge positive shift both physical and mentally.
Some key points about the fascinating FASCIA:
- It has a superb memory and we each have our own unique fascial fingerprint; memories and restrictions within the fascia can be stored from birth.
- It connects our physicality to our physiology.
- It connects our toes to the top of our head.
- It is our connective tissue.
- It is made from callogen, elastin and a viscous gel like substance
- Recent research has given it a title of an organ in it’s own right.
- It keeps our cells alive.
- It protects us and responds to internal and external forces, acting as our shock absorber.
- It is a messenger system. It has its very own nervous, lymphatic and circulatory supply and is a communicational system for the body.
- It is slippery and wet in nature and so allows muscles to move along each other without too much friction, so they can work more efficiently.
For those that eat meat, the white layer of material you take off the chicken breast.. that’s the fascia!
How can I keep my Fascia happy?
- EAT WELL, HYDRATE & MOVE: When we talk about hydration of the fascia, it is movement that hyrdrates it and keep it slippery and wet as needed to allow the muscles to work well, aswell as enough water and a well balanced anti-inflammatory diet. So this is why the body loves a variety in movement routines, as I said and also, generally speaking, less is more. The body responds well to consistent movement and muscle engagement but when the strain gets too intense, this can cause the tightened fascia to become sticky – this can be a precursor to a muscle tear or tendon tear. Regular gentle stretches to explore the bodies full range of motion will help you keep your fascia tissue slipping and sliding over muscle fibres.
- DITCH THE STRESS – easier said than done of course! 😉 Gentle breathwork or meditation will keep your fascia more hydrated. Recent research sheds light on how much the fascia works closely with the nervous system and hormonal or endocrine systems. This research is suggesting that the fascial system, rather than our skin, is our greatest sensory organ! Given the above research, think of whatever is a destressor for you – laughter, music, cooking – it’s not just about the movement. Anything that reduces your cortisol levels and brings you from the “flight or Fight” nervous system to the “Rest and digest” nervous system mode is hyrdrating your fascia more.
- WARM EPSOM SALT BATHS can help to loosen up tight fascia. Really great to follow a hot bath with even ten minutes of light stretching to keep blood from pooling in your muscles.
- COLD THERAPY AND HOT INFRARED SAUNAS help hydrate the fascia due to it’s anti-inflammatory effects on the body (See more in my previous post on hot and cold therapy)
- YOGA THERAPY AND DAILY STRETCHING I have lost count of how many times people say: “I am not flexible enough for yoga.” It is not our fault but unfortunately again, mainstream media and western society has made the majority of people believe they need to be flexible to do yoga and that they would embarrass themselves in a class as they have visual images from the media of extreme yoga poses and flexibility. Yoga needs to be for all and daily stretching is so important not just for physical flexibility but for our mental health and wellbeing also and reducing inflammation as preventative medicine & energy blockages, as we get older. Our bodies change daily, where we hold tightness, depending on so many variables even from the day & week before in terms of stress levels, the food we have eaten, have we sat down all day, the thoughts we are thinking, the amount of water we drank. It is important to even try to do some gentle stretches every morning when we wake, coming back to that spiders web visualization, keeping the fascia hydrated and it is more about consistency of stretches than the amount of classes you go to. It is in fact the slower schools of yoga like Yin yoga, where we hold the postures for longer, that we target the fascia more. Yin yoga is more about relaxing, release and letting go versus contracting the muscles in yang type schools of yoga. It targets the deep fascia more. We allow gravity and the body weight to improve flexibility in Yin yoga and restorative schools of yoga as we relax into the pose in longer holds. Research shows even 10 minutes a day of holding stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute can help for beginners. If you have never done yoga before, I will be posting some basic stretches that you can do every morning that will help, however, like nutrition, the stretches that will benefit you most to do daily are where you are feeling the most tension in your body and this is individual. Look out for some videos and blogs on Yin yoga and Yin yoga stretches also coming soon or you can join the online Yin Yoga class on Saturdays HERE
- MYOFASCIAL RELEASE BALLS AND FOAM ROLLERS: You can also use a foam roller, like in the image above to roll out your “tight spots. The foam roller acts as a tool for myofascial release. The roller gets into the fascia in much the same way that a deep-tissue massage does. Rolling with a foam roller improves circulation throughout your entire body which helps to oxygenate the blood, boost lymphatic drainage and flush toxins from the body. Toxins tend to get trapped in the fascia when the body gets out of alignment, causing tight and thick fascia tissue. You can also use myofascial release balls to target trigger points of tightness in the body. There are many variations. Some images below of the different types. You can get them all on amazon.
- MOBILITY WORK Things like foam rolling, myofascial work, and manual therapy will help break down the fascia and therefore help with more fluidity. However, you can also work directly on your mobility with a good mobility program. I will work on some youtube videos for you guys coming soon also.
- MYOFASCIAL RELEASE, BOWEN THERAPIES, REGULAR MASSAGE & ACUPUNCTURE – Great add on professional therapies for reducing stiffness and creating more flexibility in the body, in combination with the above if you feel you are super tight in area’s.
- TAKE TIME OUT AND GET QUALITY SLEEP: The body regenerates the fascia among other connective tissue with in deep sleep vs REM sleep. One of my upcoming blog posts will be on sleep and circadian rhythym with reports from my Oura ring once received to show the analysis of sleep cycles and what it means for our health.
So be mindful of your fascinating fascia!
“Fascia does not discriminate. It keeps growing and eventually hardening into whatever shapes you make most often with your body”
“Fascia gets its elasticity from elastin. It gets it’s intelligence from it’s investment of neurotransmitters. Fascia is both elastic and intelligent!”