By now you may have heard about connective tissue, fascia or myofascial release from your massage therapist, physio and yoga/pilates teacher. But just what is it?

When most of us were in school we learned a lot about bones, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, etc. But do you recall any mention of fascia? Yeah, me neither. Fascia, as it turns out, is the missing link in fully understanding how the body functions, moves and maintains it’s form.

Fascia is a continuous structure of delicate, yet profoundly strong, glue-like webbing. This webbing covers and interpenetrates every bone, muscle, nerve and blood vessel, the internal organs and even the spinal cord.

One thing we focus on in yoga and pilates is posture. Posture is both determined by and determines the shape of our fascial system. Whatever posture or position we repetitively take, the fascia is always going to support us. For example, if we round the back and shoulders every day while we work at the computer, the body will create a thickening or rigidity to the fascia to support this posture. This build up can lead to pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders and mid-back and a tightening and shortening through the chest, abdomen and front of the hips. This can then have a knock on effect throughout the body causing a loss of strength in the core group, which then requires the lower back muscles to work harder to support the spine. The body really is a fully interconnected system.

At The Body Garage, we think this stuff is pretty vital to our health and wellbeing. That’s why we integrate Myofascial Release (MFR) work into all of our classes. TRY AT HOME:

To get into the shoulders, this is one of our favourites. You’ll need a yoga block or a thick book and an MFR ball or tennis ball will do.

Lay down on the floor with your knees bent. Slide the block/book underneath your hips. Place the ball at the top of the right shoulder and then roll it down an inch or so. It should be sitting in between the shoulder blade and the spine. Allow the body to settle for a moment and connect with your breath. Feel into the sensations where the ball meets your body and with every exhale allow the body to soften.

Start to introduce a little bit of movement by slowly shrugging your right shoulder up and down. Float your right fingertips towards the ceiling, slowly drawing circles to the left and right, starting small and slowly getting bigger. Continue to focus on the breath.

If you want more sensation, you can take your right arm across the body and rest that hand on the opposite shoulder. Turn your face toward the left shoulder and draw your chin down. Hold for three deep breaths before moving back to centre. Slowly remove the ball and allow the shoulders to settle. Feel the difference side to side. When you’re ready, repeat on the other side.

Once you have finished, slowly remove the block from under the hips. Lay still for a moment, allowing the body to rest and take 5 slow deep breaths. Return to your day with a little more space and freedom in the body.

If you’re curious about Myofascial Release, check out our schedule of classes and come see us at the studio!

It is officially winter! Finally the last of the autumn rain lifted and the clouds disappeared revealing the stunning Wanaka mountains capped with a fresh blanket of snow.

As the days become colder and the frost lingers longer we are innately drawn toward hibernation. The darker evenings are a good excuse to stay home wrapped up by the fire.

This is a great opportunity to spend some time to rest, creating a habit of conscious stillness to go within and check in with how you are feeling; physically, mentally and emotionally.

Become a witness to your mind-body state through just 15-minutes a day of meditation:

1 - Find a comfortable seat with your back supported, or reclined.

2 - Connect to your breath, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. After a few deep breaths, allow your breathing to settle into a natural rhythm.

3 - Notice and allow any thoughts to pass by. If you find your mind running away with one thought, gently bring your awareness back to the breath.

Body maintenance and restoration is essential throughout the year, especially in the winter months. The body can feel a little slower to move, perhaps a little stiff and sore after a full day on the slopes. Myofascial release (MFR) is a great way to keep the body agile. Since it’s best done when the muscles are cold, find a few minutes to roll out (foam roller or MFR balls are great tools) before you hop into the shower in the morning. This is a wonderful way to offer each area of the body a few minutes of attention. If you need a little more motivation, ideas or guidance, come along to the studio for a Therapeutic Pilates session. We integrate MFR techniques into all of our classes, allowing you to easily build a daily home practice.

To completely reset the body, we need to cleanse from the inside out. If you want that quick fix reset, we highly recommend the practice of cold water immersion. Just a couple of minutes immersed in the lake on a sunny day to start will do. Over time you can build up how long you stay submerged as you will gradually build a tolerance to the cold. Two important points to remember are: start slow, controlled breathing (in and out through the nose if you can) before you get into the water and do your best to maintain that breath for the duration of the session. This helps to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system - the part of your body responsible for resetting and restoring balance and a state of relaxation. Secondly, go in deep enough where the tops of your shoulders are covered but don’t pop your head in the water. This will engage the fight or flight response in your body. You want to stay relaxed and calmly focused in the water.

The benefits of this practice are truly incredible! Incorporating a cold water immersion into your daily routine will sufficiently increase the immune system making you less likely to catch the common cold, the dreaded winter flu, and it helps muscle recovery after exercise. Why not try a dip in the lake after a day on the slopes? By intentionally exposing your body to the cold temperatures you are helping to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, revitalize the skin and experience the ultimate ahhh moment.

Remember, REST your body consciously through meditation for 15-minutes a day, RESTORE with a simple full body roll out, and enjoy a full RESET through a few minutes of cold water immersion. Perhaps rally a few friends and challenge yourself to a 30-day immersion mission in the lake! Let us know how you go and tag @thebodygarage on FaceBook and Instagram.

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