So what’s the big deal about fascia?!!

09 Feb So what’s the big deal about fascia?!!

The health and wellness industry seems to operate on fads and buzzwords. Right now, one of the more popular trends is fascial line training. Why all of the sudden this big obsession with this type of movement? Is it just another trend? What does fascial line training actually mean?  These are all great questions! As an anatomy junkie, I wanted to explore this a bit more to help clear up some misconceptions.

First of all, what the heck is fascia?

Industry expert Tom Meyers describes fascia as the “biological fabric that holds us together”. This complex web of fibers is found not only under our skin, but in fact woven throughout the soft tissue of our body. Many have compared the layout of the fascial system to that of an orange.

The orange has its outer layer of skin. Beneath this lies a web of white fibers connecting the skin to the fleshy bits of the orange. Further still, each piece of orange is wrapped in it’s own thin layer of tissue, and then further still, there is another layer surrounding each little drop of juicy orange bits. In our body, the fascia is found under the skin, and then again around each segment of muscle or organ. Further still, the fascia surrounds bundles of muscle, and again down to each muscle fiber. This makes for a huge and complex system in our body!

 

             

Aside from its obvious purpose of structural support for the soft tissues of our body, the fascia also serves as a biomechanical regulator by distributing forces throughout our body. Now what the heck does this mean? Well, much like a spider web, when one area of our body is exposed to a change in pressure, that load is not isolated to that one area, but rather experienced to a certain degree throughout the whole system. Could you imagine if our feet where the sole (pardon the pun!!) area where we felt our entire body against the ground? Think about how small the bones are in your feet compared to what’s above! It’s actually hard to imagine what it would feel like because, well, we have never truly felt this (unless injured of course)! But in fact, when our feet are in contact with the ground, the arch of our foot and the subsequent fascia that covers this space immediately takes on the role of distributing the load throughout the whole foot, and into the rest of the body. Click here for a great (and graphic!) video by Gil Hedley.

Why is this so new? I mean, our bodies haven’t really changed in the last several hundred years!! Why is this all of a sudden something I need to think about?

Much is still unknown about fascia and how it impacts movements and our body. The reason for this is, once upon a time, these layers of tissue were simply cut through and discarded when scientists performed human dissections to learn more about the muscles in isolation. It was simply regarded as the “casing” in which our muscles were surrounded. It is now being discovered, however, that this “casing” has a huge implication on how the body distributes force, and in fact how efficiently one is able to perform certain movements. This new understanding is shaping how many fitness and health professionals perform and prescribe movement. Rather than being viewed as a “stacked” weight-bearing structure dependent upon gravity to be held together and aligned, we have the understanding that our body operates much like a tensegrity unit whereby our bones are literally floating within the soft tissue of our body and we are held together in a balanced sea of tension.   

Where can I get more information on this fascinating system?

If you’re like me, then once you hear about something that resonates, you want to dive in and explore further for greater understanding. To delve deeper into this fascination world of fascia, the Anatomy Trains website is a great place to start!

Great info… but what does this mean for my fitness or yoga classes?

All of this stuff is great, but perhaps you are more curious about how it should impact you in your movement and yoga practices. The thing about fascia is it likes movement. Movement is what hydrates the tissues and keeps the “fuzz” (as Gil Hedley would say!) from building up. It’s important to note that the tissues within this fascial matrix have adapted to previous strain or load. In other words, the fascia is distributing load in your body in accordance with how you have moved in the past. This means that if you have built up certain “bad” movement patterns, your tissues have developed in such a way as a response to this pattern. The good news is, if you learn new and proper movement patterns, the tissue is remodelled to support this change. So, your task in movement and yoga classes is then to slow down and start to perceive your patterns and build strength from the core out. (On a side note, most of us have built up patterns of movement allowing the big muscles to take over, creating an imbalance in force distribution. It may be a humbling experience to back off a little and retrain your movement patterns!).

Check out my intagram feed (@fuelyourawesome or @wildernessyogaschool) for some fun fascial movement inspirations (as well as some yummy food ideas!). Other awesome folks to follow for this type of stuff are @heartandbonesyoga, @yogadetour, @kathrynbruniyoung just to name a few.

…Yep… there’s an oil for that!!

Just as there seems to be an app for everything these days, there’s increasing awareness on how we can integrate essential oils to help us a number of things from colds, to emotional well-being, to inflammation. Well, it just so happens wintergreen is a great oil to complement your movement practice. When I’m feeling particularly sticky (or perhaps “fuzzy” as Gil might offer), I like to apply a bit of wintergreen topically to tight areas. I dilute it with either some fractionated coconut oil, or maybe into a scent free cream base. I find if applied before or even after I move a little on my mat, or at the gym, it gives a great sense of release and freedom.

Want to come learn with me?

If this sort of thing piques your interest and you want to learn more about how to integrate movement that helps to reduce the fuzz and allows you to feel great in your body, check out my Mindful Movement and Mobility workshop offered through The Yoga Lounge. 

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