What is Fascia?
Fascia has become a hot topic in recent years as more and more research has uncovered the importance of it to our overall health. What is Fascia you ask? Fascia is densely woven connective tissue that surrounds, stabilizes, separates and interconnects almost every structure in the body including internal organs and in and around the muscles (myofascia). Due to overuse, underuse, injury, physical or emotional trauma, layers of fascia can become “glued” together, limiting mobility, weakening muscles and even causing local pain and referred pain.
What is Myofascial Release?
Enter myofascial release. With myofascial release, pressure is applied to specifically targeted areas of fascia to help release the adhesions between fascial layers and help the connective tissue remodel itself into a more orderly fashion that is more flexible and functional. There are trained professionals who can help you with seriously restricted areas, but you can also use techniques on yourself at home to help alleviate tension, self-myofascial release.
There are a variety of tools in the market for self-myofascial release including the foam roller, balls in a variety of sizes and materials, balls with spikes, sticks with balls, etc. Each has there own benefit, but I personally prefer silicon balls in various sizes depending on your need.
Here are some of my toys:
The balls are more targeted and can reach areas that are hard to find with a foam roller or other larger surface area tool. The larger tools can be used in a more broad fashion to help bring circulation and hydration to a larger area. Common areas of release are the shoulders, hips and back. There are a variety of release techniques such as rolling (with the direction of the fiber), cross-fibering (rolling across the grain of the muscle fiber), and contract and relax to name a few. Different techniques should be used to address the situation, depending on the need.
In addition to releasing adhered fascia, there’s a whole list of other benefits as a result of myofascial release. Here are the main ones:
- Increases movement of fluid in your body: blood, water, lymph. By getting rid of knots and tension in the fascia that may be restricting fluid flow in the area, myofascial release techniques helps to keep your muscles and connective tissue well-hydrated, blood flow constant, and encourages the flow of lymph back to the heart, a major component of your immune system that helps to fight infection in the body.
- Reduces muscle soreness. A residual effect of increased circulation in your muscles and connective tissue.
- Restores soft tissue pliability. By restoring soft tissue pliability, we can help correct postural imbalances and create new habits and patterns. Better posture can also increase the amount of oxygen the lungs can take in, making them more efficient.
- Improves muscular range of motion. Studies have also shown that self-myofascial release can increase range of motion without decreasing muscle force or activation. By breaking up the adhesions in the fascia, your muscles and connective tissue can move more freely and can be more effective.
- Increases energy flow. Myofascial release can help move stagnant energy by removing blockage. When the block is removed the released energy expands and gives us a sense of freedom and ease. Many people describe the feeling as being centered yet relaxed.
- Promotes natural detoxification in the body. By releasing the abdominal area you stimulate the organs involved in digestion, detoxification and elimination.
- Establishes/re-awakens neuromuscular connections. Proprioception is increased as you become more connected to your body and aware of spacial orientation. The lesser known interoception also improves. You become more in touch with your inner body, gaining greater perception of the internal bodily functions.
- Brings a greater sense of wellbeing. Myofascial release can bring you into a more parasympathetic state (relaxed and calm) giving you an overall sense of peace.
As you can see, there are so many benefits of myofascial release that go beyond just increasing range of motion. Not only do you immediately notice the physical benefits of self- myofascial release, there are therapeutic and relaxation components that are the result of repeated practice.
Myofascial Release and Yoga
Because of increased mobility and strength as well as the mental and emotional benefits, self- myofascial release is an excellent partner for yoga. It works in conjunction with yoga to bring about more overall body and mind awareness, stillness of the mind and connects you deeper to your body on many levels.
Combined with yoga, Myoyoga, as I call it, is a powerful practice that enables you to maximize use of the corresponding muscles by not only releasing tension, but drawing awareness to the targeted area. MyoYoga enhances your yoga practice physically, however the psychological and energetic affects are immeasurable and will keep you coming back for more!
Checkout a MyoYoga class with Christina in BGC sometime! Find her schedule here: http://ow.ly/wbw330iMtCY
*Urban Yogi Recommendation: To know more about fascia, listen to this Yogaland podcast with Jill Miller.
Christina has a diverse background in yoga having studied with a wide the range of teachers over the years. Recently, she’s been particularly immersed in the power of the mind/body connection and it’s importance to overall health and well-being. This combined with myofascial release has become her passion as she sees the profound benefits of this practice in herself and her students.
She incorporates various aspects from her past teachings into her classes in a unique, creative, and fun way. Her classes are challenging, yet a place where each individual can find his or her own path of physical and spiritual growth.
Christina is also an avid wellness advocate and believes all people should have access to knowledge about how to live a healthy and happy life.