Fasciation: CTF II

Ready for more?  Here’s a great video about fascia.  Warning: this is not for the squeamish.  And the music is a nice touch.

So let’s look at more suggestions for fascial fitness, big thank you to Tom Myers.

3. Cultivate elasticity by smooth rhythmic movements.  Walking is awesome.

Elasticity is related to flexibility.  If the fascia is elastic, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments will stretch and bounce back rather than pull and stay pulled.  Bonus healthy points!

Let’s talk about smooth rhythmic movements.  When you feel stiff, for example upon waking in the morning, a hot shower is often helpful, but getting moving encourages greater circulation as well.  Your body is built to move, and walking is great exercise for your body.  It is a simple movement that has very positive effects.  Dr. Claudia Welch, author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, encourages a walk in the early morning to improve overall health.  She states, “It has been demonstrated that by the end of a sixteen-week period, depressed patients who took a brisk thirty-minute walk or jog three times a week experienced as much relief as patients treated with standard antidepressant meditations.” (p. 221, Balance Your Hormones…)  Plus, walking is kind to your joints.

If you run, barefoot running stimulates the feet and therefore the rest of your body, based on the way the lines of fascia travel from your feet all the way up to your tongue and even the top of your head.  Jumping rope is another good activity as is bouncing on a trampoline.

4. Train with preparatory counter movements.  For example, bend backward to then go forward.

So this is during training, during exercise.  Hmm, well, yoga comes to mind.  Think of cat-cow tilts.  Surya namaskar, sun salutations, are all about bending backward to then go forward.  Mr. Iyengar in Light On Yoga suggests this in several places, parsvottanasana being one.  In a side forward bend you first create a standing backbend to lengthen the spine, then you fold forward from the hips to maintain inner spaciousness.

Sarvaungasana, shoulderstand, and Matsyasana, fish pose are excellent counter movements to balance each other.  The recommendation is to hold sarvaungasana for twice as long, two minutes for example, to matsyasana’s one minute.  This has the added bonus of strengthening and balancing thyroid function.

Purvottasana and paschimottanasana is another good combination.  These do not have to be repeated a lot.  Three repetitions for each pose will do, holding for at least 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes.

And our final suggestion for the day:

5. Expand your body towards full kinesthetic sensory experience.  Dance!

There’s a term called “kinesthetic literacy.”  How well can you feel yourself?  Like your physical body, when you close your eyes and become sensitive to your body, are there areas of your consciousness’ container that you cannot feel?  For example numbness, but also a place (or places) where you intuitively feel there is less awareness?  This takes a bit of practice.  When you close your eyes and sensitize yourself inwardly, do you feel any dark places, gripping or holding where vital energy seems to get stuck?  The more you move, the less likely it is for you to have blockages in the flow of vital energy.

Knowing where your body is in space is another way of looking at it.  If you are standing in tadasana, mountain pose, and your teachers says take your hips back in space so that they are over your heels, do you know what that feels like?  Do you know what internal shifts take place when that happens?  Can you feel a steady anchoring through your legs and feet when that happens?  Massage in general is helpful for this as well, massaging your own feet is a wonderful practice.  First of all it just feels good, but secondly, you increase your kinesthetic awareness.  As one of my teachers likes to say, “touch to wake up.”

I repeat, how well can you feel yourself?  Neuroscientists believe that fascia is the structure that carries consciousness.  Totally amazing.

Okay, next time we will discuss hydration.

 

Next up: Fascianation: CTF III Drink More Water.

Go back to Fascianation: Connective Tissue Fitness.

Fascianation: Connective Tissue Fitness

It has been a long time since I last posted about fascia, but that does not mean that I am any less interested or excited about it.  In preparing for my upcoming six-week-special at Willow Street Yoga Center, the Fascia Sutras, I’ve had a chance to delve more deeply into the topic and am planning to document the good stuff here.

A brief review on fascia:  it is the connective tissue in the body.  It is what gives your body structure.  Without fascia, you would collapse like a bag of individual bones piled on the floor.  Fascia weaves through the muscles as well as surrounds the muscles and it is what is between your muscles and your skin.  Muscles do not “attach” to bones, yes there are tendons and ligaments that help support the structure, but it is more correct (at least due to current research) to think of it as the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones gliding fluidly along each others’ surfaces.  Fascia is considered “organized water,” in that water is a large component of the connective tissue and the connective tissue organizes in both vertical lines and horizontal bands.  Hence the name Fascia Sutras, because a sutra is a line or a thread.  Instead of thinking of your body as consisting of 600 different muscles, think of your body as one muscle with 600 pockets.  Phew.  That was a lot.

Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains and Fascial Fitness Practitioner Extraordinaire, offers 10 suggestions for fascial fitness on his webinar on Yoga U.  We’ll discuss a couple today…

1. Focus on strengthening and stretching the long neuro-myo-fascial sutras rather than simply isolating muscle groups.  Hooray for yoga!

It is called neuro-myo-fascia because there are many nerve endings in the fascia that surround the muscles, therefore, mind and body are connected within the connective tissue.  Body builders way back in the 70s, and even today, isolate particular muscle groups to build them up and make them prominent.  But as the muscles bulge like that, they lose their flexibility.  A body-builder becomes muscle-bound.  Think of when you feel tight in a particular muscle, first of all it is most likely the fascia that is actually tight, and secondly, we all know it is not comfortable.

Hooray for yoga because instead of repetitive motion in a particular area, yogis practice a wide variety of motions to lengthen muscles as they build strength.  Think of Virabhadrasana I, from the back leg all the way up to your upraised hands, that is a long line of motion.  There is plenty of room to open up space in the connective tissue to allow vital energy in the form of prana, nutrients from food, and lymph to flow.  Parighasana is another good one.  Flexible muscles are naturally strong.

To be clear, it is not that lifting weights is bad, it is just better if exercise that isolates muscle groups is balanced with stretching as well.

2. Engage your muscles before stretching them, and then stretch them in multiple directions.

Before exercise, warm up the muscles with fluid movements of short duration; the body is built to move, and short, deliberate, graceful actions will increase circulation to warm the connective tissue as much as the muscles themselves.  Then engage your muscles, create muscular energy if you will, in order to stretch them in a healthy way.

If you only attempt to stretch the muscles without creating some stability first, then it is more likely that muscle and connective tissue will pull away from the bones.  Create resistance first, and then you may go deeper within a stretch or yoga pose.  Now, I am not an expert, but I do have personal experience on this.  There was a reason Anusara Yoga taught Muscular Energy before Organic Energy (extending outward through the bones in brief), it is an effective and healthy way to practice.

 So, engage your muscles first, and then make sure you move in multiple directions.  We are going for maximum sensation here.  If you practice a yoga posture and notice a muscle you never knew you had before, congratulations!  More body awareness points for you!  Having a kinesthetic sense of your own body is wonderful.  Mainly it just feels good to infuse vital energy to a place that may have been dull or blocked, but in addition your stability, coordination, and balance will improve.  This feeling in the body is totally empowering.  Awesome.
Stay tuned… we’ve got eight more suggestions to go.
Move forward to Fascianation: CTF II.
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