Fascia | A Cinderella Story
A Star Is Born
Once upon a time...
Once upon a time, many moons ago, science and spirituality were one. While civilization evolved, and powers shifted — the church coveted spirituality and modern science retained rights to the body. The separation of mind and body prevailed...but times are changing.
Modern science has taught us a lot; it's both enhanced and saved lives. Many stories and interpretations are written about fascia. Often referred to as the Cinderella tissue, she has been neglected for decades, yet relied on by many. Her true value has been locked away and hidden from view, until now and this is her story.
Modern Science is a big deal. She is a powerful force of noble stature who loves her children. The reality, she is not one person, but a community in search of validation and justification. Speak out against the crowd, and you become an outcast. Scientists dislike new ideas that challenge generally accepted knowledge. That said, without new ideas, the majority of us would still think the world was flat.
In this story, Cinderella has many step-siblings, which include but are not limited to the bones, muscles, organs, blood vessels and nerves. These are the coveted children of Modern Medicine. The study of human anatomy can be traced back for thousands of years, but the science of anatomy is a little fresher. Modern science began examining the bits and pieces of the body through dissection in the 17th century. Every time there was a dissection party, fascia got in the way. She is charismatic and hard to ignore. The only way for her sisters need to shine, is by hiding her from plain sight.
The Fairy Godmother + Animal Helpers
Despite the fact noblemen and aristocrats cast her aside, or knew barely anything of her existence, Cinderella was kind, compassionate and yielded to the needs of others. Bodyworkers such as yogis, acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors have known about her importance for years. They value her existence by engaging in conversation and practices that support her well being.
Prince Charming and Friends
Despite the risk of being considered an outcast from their respective scientific communities, many people have known about and been Fascia advocates for years. My first introduction to her true wonder was while studying yin yoga with Bernie Clark. This awakening would lead me down the path to Gil Hedley's Fuzz Speach and Dr. Jean Claude Guimberteau's Strolling Under the Skin and Tom Meyers work with Anatomy Trains. Years later, I find myself aligned with Fascia Yoga teachers Christine Wushke and Joanne Avison, who have graciously welcomed me further down the rabbit hole. Here I'm introduced to many mad-hatters, such as John F. Barnes, Dr. Robert Schleip and John Sharkey. With their help and many others, Fascia is finally receiving the spotlight she deserves. She is complex and still not fully understood, but in the spotlight nonetheless.
Happily moving forward...
On March 27, 2018, Cinderella was honoured by the noblemen and aristocrats in Scientific Reports, a new study co-led by an NYU School of Medicine.
Modern Medicine finally validated the importance of fascia, and this had everyone's knickers in a knot. Her closest friends were divided. Some rejoiced, and others were frustrated by the fact we've all known about this for years. One year later and Cinderella has risen to the ranks of Lady Gaga now.
A Fascia Star Is Born.
I got my first tattoo shortly after my 18th birthday. After 37 years of existence in this body, I have 18 images depicting aspects of my life story and the people and places who have made it matter. My skin is a canvas; this ink a visual representation of the stories and people who have made an impact on my life. It is what you can see from the outside, but how on earth can you fully grasp the whole story, if you do not know what's happened on the inside. It's as if I've taken a novel and made a picture show. An excellent source of entertainment, but it's incomplete.
Often pre-conceived notions of anatomical alignment will dictate what a yoga posture needs to look like from the outside. Forefathers like BKS Iyengar pioneered this emphasis, yet most of these rules were determined based on those instructors personal experience in the pose. Two individuals will not feel the same sensations if we structure both physical bodies to look the same from the outside. Why?
Fascia is the biological page in which our life story is written.
Stored in the fascia is every life experience, every trauma, every ounce of joy, and this shapes our lives. This matrix of historical data affects how we move and function in this world. Cinderella had many animal helpers, and fascia is no different. Everyone that works with or studies fascia, thinks they know best. There's a good chance they are well informed, but this realm of knowledge is everchanging. What we knew yesterday, is different than what we know today.
Old-School Fascia Release
I sometimes refer to these methods as 'yang-school' because some people might take offence to being considered 'old school". I don't intend to discredit the professionals and practitioners who incorporate the following methods into their self-care tool belt. I do wish to demonstrate, that there are varied views on how health and fitness professionals work with fascia.
How 'They' Roll
Foam Rolling Techniques
Hard props - tennis and lacrosse balls
These tools are well known and often utilized in the fitness and biomechanics world. When pain or excessive restriction due to fascia is suspected, it is widely accepted by many professionals that relatively deep and sometimes aggressive force will 'break-up' fascia restrictions. The "no pain, no gain" mantra reigns supreme in these social circles. Some people love to torture themselves, and some have been lead to believe that it needs to hurt more before it can feel better.
Never is never right, always is always wrong.
Some people do report overall improvement after utilizing these methods. Many athletes and fitness professionals revere these 'yang-school' techniques. But, the long-term success rate is questionable. In reality, "the more you roll, the more you need to roll." This approach is flawed for two reasons.
Fight or Flight: Excessive force or pressure applied to the body will trigger the fight or flight response, a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered, cortisol levels rise, increasing muscle tension, blood pressure, blood sugar and suppressing the immune system. The physiological changes that occur during the fight or flight response give the body increased strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running. These are not signs of healing and restoration.
Fascia is Everywhere: This tissue network wraps around every muscle, bone and organ. Muscles are fascia with muscle protein integrated within it. This tissue network is NOT like saran wrap. Fascia weaves in and around the body and all it's 'parts.' Fascia tensions us in the round and is responsible for the shape of our whole body. YOU CANNOT ROLL A MUSCLE AND ONLY TARGET FASCIA. It is impossible. If one is not careful, we run the risk of damaging healthy tissue in the self-help process. Hence why "the more you roll, the more you need to roll."
How We Roll
We are the 'new-school' voice. We represent the other side of fascia-release potential. Fundamentally, this approach is a little more 'yin' style in nature, but not entirely. It brings unconscious movement patterns into conscious awareness. We believe the intelligence that self-assembled the body, is what heals the body. A mindful based practice will cultivate an intuitive experience. What we 'think,' becomes what we 'know.'
Fascia Yoga | The Matrix Movement Method
Ahimsa is a yogic principle that encompasses a non-violent approach to life. When fully present and embodied, we can track the nervous system for 'fight or flight' responses. Never leading or forcing a position, we check the ego and avoid taking the practice beyond an edge were stress or strain if experienced. The 'less is more' approach encourages a parasympathetic nervous system response, which invites the body to remain in a 'rest and digest' state, where a body can begin to heal and restore itself.
Life + Tension + Integrity
Biotensegrity is the geometry of consciousness. I will expand on this concept in a future blog, but for now, understand that fascia is a sensory organ that acts as a second nervous system. It protects you, but most importantly, it is in every part of you. Healthy fascia is smooth and supple, with a crystalline gel-like structure. Much like honey, if stagnant, it will harden. We cannot just drink water to be hydrated. Motion is lotion. Fascia Yoga facilitates the healthy re-hydration of this complex matrix.
The 3 Pillars
RELEASE - Restorative yoga postures and soft fascia yoga balls target specific areas of concern.
REBOUND - Gentle rhythmic movements that re-hydrate, cells and tissues, while improving strength and flexibility of cell walls.
REORGANIZE - Mindful based movements facilitate in neuromuscular re-education.
A typical FASCIA YOGA class may include:
Lying on fascia yoga balls or other soft props
Passive yin or restorative poses, with or without the balls
Slow and conscious yoga sequences
Gentle rhythmic or rebounding motions
Intuitive movement to unwind the body
Strength focused exercises
Range of movement exploration
Cinderella's story is still unfolding. Understanding fascia and its full role in our physical form is a new science. Different myofascial release methods and techniques exist, and different things will work for different people. Fascia Yoga, The Matrix Movement Method emphasizes that we each have a unique life story with individualized holding and compensation patterns. There is more than one way to do a yoga posture. There is more than one way to throw a ball and many variables that come into play if you want to win a boxing match. Everybody has adapted in a way that compensates for the trauma it has endured. Whether that be from injury, stress, or repetitive strain, it's unique to the individual.
Mindfulness heightens sensory awareness, which is our safest and most useful guide. It fine-tunes your ability to track the body for 'fight or flight' response during and after fascia treatment. You can't judge my life-story, by only interpreting the tattoos on my body. We cannot judge a yogi, by how easily they can touch their toes. A teacher or bodyworker will only ever see part of the big picture. I invite you to embrace the opportunity to see and feel for yourself. Be bold and willing to explore more than one myofascial release possibility. Be honest, be kind and let intuition, be your guide through the matrix.