Monday, February 2, 2015
Fascia Is The True Thang'
(See earlier post: “Connective Tissue” As The Locus for Restorative-Yin Yoga, 2/15/11. Also, see posts: Slow Cookin’, 6/6/13, Deep Comprehensive Stretching, 1/1/13, Stretch& Relax, 10/2/12,Holding Yoga Poses & Spindle Release, 2/18/12)
MOVE FAST and muscles stretch. Fascia [“Fah-shah”) is the last to stretch, and fascia stands to be stretched when held. Popularly, muscles are sensed to be that which moves and flexes with fascia sensed to be rather immovable. However, flow through yoga poses for a couple of months and then hold poses for a couple of months and see if you do not notice an increase in flexibility and suppleness.
Yoga is popularly approached as a fitness alternative—but essentially as a fitness “workout”—and we tend to deliver what participants can feel, and participants can feel muscles move. If new to yoga, muscles will likely burn the next day. However, if poses are held and allowed to gradually stretch, muscles will likely not burn the next day.
That which we do not feel, we tend to not even sense its presence. If we move and perhaps sweat, we feel that we are getting to that which we need to get to. And yet, what we need to affect to gain the most obvious physical goal of modern yoga participants is to stretch fascia.
Fascia is more than tendons and “gristle.” It is a web of living tissue found throughout the body. It coats muscle strands in three layers and is inside muscle tissue joining cells, and ultimately streams down into more recognizable ligaments at the end of large groups of muscle strands that attach muscle to bone. Gently leach an organ such as the heart of its muscle cells and find a ghost-like heart shape of fascia upon which contemporary biomedicine has now grown a new heart from stem cells.
Fascia is not rubber. While we may think of it at the white material in anatomy illustrations, it is living fibrous tissue., fascia is everywhere. Fascia is structural support/strength. It absorbs shock throughout the body. It contains pathogens in regions so that the immune system can rush to those regions. Full of nerve tissue, nerve communication is streamlined across the surface of fascia. (And perhaps because of this optimal nerve sensation flow, it might be strongly associated with complementary medical interventions such as acupuncture/acupressure and be a locus for understanding of “Eastern body structure”—such as “meridians”—from Western medical perspectives.0
One body-MIND aspect that may relate to fascia is the arena of trauma being held in the body physiology. [An interview with Tom Myers, “Creating Change: Tom Myers on Yoga, Fascia and Mind-Body Transformation,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eva-norlyk-smith-phd/mind-body-_b_4387093.html explores fascia and trauma work.] “Bodywork” such as Rolfing, the work of Wilhelm Reich, and Hakomi Therapy pay attention to the body in approaching emotional disorder. There is typically some physical manipulation that is sensed to be “deep.” It would be apparent to anyone that an experience defined as traumatic, especially chronic, is likely to be expressed somewhere in the body in chronic tension patterns. General stress is a milder form of this expression. Tom Myers suggests that fascia is ‘the final repository.” He states that Most of these emotions are going to start in your nervous system. They’re going to be exported to your muscles. And the pattern in your muscles is going to determine what the pattern in the fascia is. He posits that sustained stretch in yoga poses change the connective tissue. So poses that are sustained is the key. While it is great for physical health, exercise in the general sense—running or working out… . has less effect on the fascia, because it’s designed for the muscles, for the cardiovascular system or perhaps for neural recruitment, such as stability training. Myers stresses the necessity of giving the muscles a chance to slow down. The muscles have to relax first, and then the fascia starts to stretch and release. And that can facilitate the kind of repatterning that leads to lasting release of chronic holdings and, in many cases, a profound change of mind and body.
Another body-MIND aspect might involve fascia as the seat of “high-quality proprioception” (i.e., the ability to be consciously or subconsciously aware of where the localized parts of the body are.) We might “feel” our muscles, but the muscles operate rather isolated and Via fascial connections, muscles are linked into long functional chains, and really, it’s these larger myofascial chains that are responsible for your movement. [Jenni Rawlings, “Yoga Anatomy: What Every Teacher (and Practitioner) should Know About Fascia,” http://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-anatomy-“ what-every-teacher-and-practitioner-should-know-about-fascia, Feb 2, 2015] This high-quality proprioception is not just body awareness, but may be a physiological aspect of “inner vision” that opens not only body health but a reading of “integration.”
[Without much clarification, Rawlings suggests that varied movement rather than the repeated movement of “chaturangas” may strengthen fascial tissues whereas repetition may weaken fascia and make it more prone to injury.] But we might be asking ourselves, why 60-70 “down dogs” in a vinyasa session? Why not explore down dog variations and move on?]
Beyond attention to fascia, Why, Why, why we are not challenging this vinyasa flow sequence seems remarkable, and is a very, very good reason to challenge things like yoga registration? Why are we validating Y’s exploding yoga [like exploding judo in the 1960’s, now gone] and myriad yoga studios that aspire to seek more participants? Why are we not looking to deeper aspects, both straight-up fitness physiology that is correct, and, of course—that rarity—deeper mind-body-spirit dimensions?