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!