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Our Incredible Fascial Network and Yin Yoga

Our Incredible Fascial Network and Yin Yoga

While we stretch and move throughout our yoga sessions, it’s likely that our focus is on our muscles, whether to elongate or strengthen, we are more familiar with these big movers that create our shape and give us the power to flow through our sun salutations.  Did you know then, that wrapping every single muscle and organ is a connective tissue called fascia that is continuous throughout your body? I have been familiar and fascinated with fascia for a long time as a massage therapist, in fact I chose it as my case study during university and discovered it’s power first hand then as a budding bodyworker.

Understanding the fascia

Before our knowledge and understanding of fascia, we saw the body as separate systems; the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, lymphatic, endocrine and nervous.  We now know that all these systems communicate via this continuous network that permeates infinitely throughout our form, allowing the body to talk as a whole, as well as providing shock absorption, structure, stability, the transport of cells and so on, it is a huge topic.  What I am particularly interested in delving into today is the fascia in relation to our movement in yoga, and how irregularities in the fascia cause pain and tension.

How do I know if I have fascial pain and tension?

Just as with muscles, movement patterns and postural habits affect our fascia, creating areas in this fabric that are tense, torn and inflamed.  Unlike muscles, however, facial irregularities are usually formed from chronic pain and tension as opposed to acute trauma.  So, if you have had pain in an area of the body for 3months or longer, then most likely the tension is now also in the fascia.

Healing through Yin Yoga

A really interesting characteristic of the fascia is its ability to adapt to mechanical stress.  Yes, our muscles lengthen and shorten, tense and relax, but fascia actually changes in cell and tissue structure to serve the body in the most effective way, moving from a tense, stable state to a more liquid, fluid state.  This is good news as it means that through manual therapy and movement we are able to change and heal our fascia.

In yoga we give health to our facial network through yin yoga, a restorative practice that indulges the body in long, slow holds.  

When we move deeply into a pose quickly the natural reaction of the fascia is to be in its tensile state.  So in yin, we move into a stretch very slowly, pausing at the first point of resistance, not pain.  From here our fascia is able to transform into its more liquid state thereby providing us the opportunity to slowly lengthen the fascia, realign fibers and bring hydration and nutrition to areas previously restricted.

 

Our fascia is very closely linked to our intuition and interoception (our body’s ability to communicate to us), so I encourage you to try a pose yourself and feel into what it is that your body needs.

Take a simple pose such as a seated forward fold, use props such as pillows, blocks, books and bolsters to support you in the pose so that you can totally surrender and relax, not having to hold yourself up in any way.  Remember to come into a stretch and then back off to about 75% intensity, or pause at that first feeling of resistance, then allow gravity to slowly bring you deeper into the pose as your fascia creeps gently more supple and flexible.  Hold the pose for up to 5minutes and very kindly come out and relax on your back, feeling the effects of the new and revived energy moving through your body.

 

I look forward to journeying further into this topic with you in future blogs, there is so much to be gained in understanding this fascinating physical and energetic network.

Olivia.