It helps, of course, to first understand what fascia is. It’s a band or sheet of connective tissue (primarily collagen) beneath the skin that attaches, stabilises, and separates everything inside our body. It’s quite literally what holds us together! Previously it was an overlooked part of our anatomy, but it’s becoming more popular each day due to the huge amount of scientific and medical research proving that there’s a direct correlation between our fascia and our health and well-being.
As a Yoga Teacher I try my best to explain what fascia is while teaching, but it’s not always easy to understand. It’s similar to a clingfilm-like substance that wraps around all our muscles and organs (as well as joints, tendons, arteries etc), offering support and reducing friction during everyday movement. Myofascial release aims to give this clingfilm a workout, stretching and smoothing it so your body stays mobile and works at its optimum level. Think of smoother cling-film as being easier to slide across.
I’ve also compared fascia to an orange before. There’s a 2 minute video here that explains it better than I can write it. It’s worth a watch.
Both emotional and physical stress and strain causes the fascia to tighten and over time this results in various aches, pains and stiffness. There’s a common saying in yoga that ‘we hold our issues in our tissues’ and I absolutely believe this. You’ll be aware that emotional stress can trigger things like a physical tension headache, but there’s a whole heap of these emotional-physical repercussions happening throughout our body that aren’t always as obvious and that we aren’t usually aware of.
Research has shown that our ‘energy channels’ (nerve endings in Western medicine, Nadis in Indian medicine, and meridians in Chinese medicine) run through our fascia. Myofascial release targets these energy channels in a similar way to acupressure/acupuncture or trigger points release by gently massaging the connective tissue and breaking up any blockages so things can flow or move more freely.
Yin yoga is already designed to stretch out the fascia, so adding these massage balls allows you to work on a much deeper level and really remove the build up of stress, soreness and stiffness. Our body is a kinetic chain (think chain reaction or the butterfly effect). If one joint is not working efficiently, then another joint will compensate. This leads to muscle imbalances, tissue overload, fatigue, and injuries, especially referral pain. It’s normal for back pain to be a result of a knee injury, tight hip flexors or even slouched shoulders. Myofascial release helps avoid these imbalances by keeping your joints happy, healthy and hydrated.
It will hopefully leave you feeling light and floaty like after a deep tissue sports massage, however, the actual process of arriving there can be pretty uncomfortable and you’ll probably make some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘owws’ along the way, not to mention some questionable facial expressions!
I’d really recommend coming to a class if you’re trying to improve your flexibility, reduce sport related muscle soreness, loosen up from sitting at a desk all day, or you’re trying to detoxify on a deeper level.
That’s all of us, right? ;)
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