Fascia is a plastic type material that surrounds your muscles and other soft tissues like a net. Sort of like the net bag that holds your tomatoes. It’s not connected to the brain, so produces no sensation while you stretch or knead it. Those hard foam rollers you may have seen at your gym work on your fascia so that you can reduce the density of your fascia, thereby creating supple muscles and a greater flexibility of movement.
Bob Cooley, in his book “The Genius of Flexibility” has interesting things to say about fascia:
“All past traumas are stored in the fascia. These traumas literally warp the natural form of the fascia, and deform it, thus holding the person into the damaged position. When the fascia is ‘thinned’ during RFST, the memories of those events surface and are brought to light so as to finally release the person from being held in the past.”
So what is RFST? It’s resistance flexibility and strength training. This means going further than just simply stretching. Contracting a muscle and lengthening it is a great way to stretch out your fascia:
So keeping your muscles contracted while you stretch, will help to thin out “bunched up” fascia tissue. So exercises that use resistance training, working against your own body weight, muscle conditioning with dynamic stretching, these are all great exercises to break up fascia and thereby create more movement, better posture and helps to avoid chronic joint stress.
What are other ways of working out your fascia?
Try a Yin Yoga class. In Yin Yoga we hold gravity-pulling poses for a long time, anywhere from 3 to 20 min, and this benefits deep connective tissue. You can prevent planar fascia (in the feet) by practicing barefoot training. Stretching while contracting is akin to holding a chin up exercise for a long time. It’s holding your leg up in a leg lift and moving it back down slowly. It’s slowing down your reps with dynamic weights at the gym. It’s rolling out your muscles with a hard foam roller.
Bob Cooley outlines stretches for specific ailments:
The importance of Yin Yoga:
Yin Yoga is a great balance to our regular fast and furious yoga and it has come to be in some classes. People believe that the faster, the more “athletic”, the more “power”, the better for your body. The truth is, yoga is a time to slow down, fully experience each pose in each moment, and there is strength and power in that. It takes great focus and a powerful mind to stay in the present. With a balance of yin and yang, the body becomes strong and less vulnerable to injury. Our daily lives are filled with fast-moving, high stress, trying to please others and overextend. Slowing it down and breathing through yin postures can bring a great relief to our emotional health, which of course, affects our physical health. Here’s an example of a 30 minute Yin practice:
Please leave me questions or comments about fascia, yin yoga, or flexibility!