5 Things you NEED to know about fascia: Our bodies natural spider web

Our body is made up of bones and muscles that are surrounded by fascia. Or is it our body is fascia with pockets for bones and muscles to go into? Everything is or once was fascia, in an embryonic state we are nothing more than fascia with a nucleus rapidly developing into a tinny tiny little human- to eventually become this amazing “thing” made up of bones, muscles and fascia. Or is it fascia with pockets and bones and muscles inside?

In everything that we do-our fascial system’s health is vital to the health and harmony of our being.

So what is fascia exactly? Well Anatomy Trains founder Thomas Meyers says “Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. You are about 70 trillion cells all humming in relative harmony; fascia is the 3-D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and wet proteins that hold them all together in their proper placement”.  Well beam me up Spider Man and spin me a web (totally not the right movie- but, you get me-right?).

For years many have been thinking of fascia as simply a layer or covering, however fascia is so much more than that. Our bodies are made up of fascia; everything that isn’t a cell-plus the cells that create and maintain it, the fancy word often used in the fascia community is Extra Cellular Matrix (ECM). If you want to live in a body that is injury free, and understands the dance between stability and movement, then it may be time to start looking at the body differently.

We live in a culture that loves to segment things, put things in boxes, so that we can then supposedly wrap our heads around the concepts being provided. The body is no exception to this approach, but ECM asks us to see the body as one unit, I often tell my students and teacher trainers to think of the body as one big unitard and if there is a snag in the unitard then somewhere else or everywhere else will be affected by that snag (or pulled muscle, or too tight muscle or weak area). Yes we need to know where bones and muscles are to help us draw a better road map of where we are in the body, but is it the muscle that is injured or snagged or is it the fascia that holds the muscle the pocket?

So as you wrap your head around the idea of fascia, and this idea that for the past 400 years studying just bones and muscles and scrapping off the white stuff (fascia) might not have been the best idea, here are a few things I want you to know.

  1. Classical kinesiological model suggest that the body’s frame is a skeleton and it is being moved by muscles. I would say yes to this statement as it is important to learn the origin and insertion of a muscle pulling in and on the body. But it is also important at this point to start to process that muscles are not the only ones pulling on the body. Think about it, if you put several items in a bag and then pull on the bag what happens to the contents inside? It moves around and sometimes relocates itself; your body is doing that too.
  2. We have have been taught “parts” there are not “parts”. Our bodies ares an interwoven, dynamic system where everything is connected. Text book learning often likes to segment things, pull things apart in the hopes of better learning, however I have to question if the body works in parts or always as a whole? A concept I throw out to my students in class often is “sure your bicep flexes the arm (when you isolate the arm from the body) but what does that arm attach to, what surrounds that arm and holds that bicep muscle, triceps muscle, humerus, and radius and ulna bones in place-fascia. Our bodies are interconnected and nothing is separate.
  3. When fascia doesn’t move we cannot sense. We have ten times more propriceptors (the feelers that communicate back with our brain) in fascia than we do in muscle. Supple, mobile, healthy fascia is vital in order to truly create what we in yoga we call the body-mind connection. As a yoga teacher you hear this said all the time but now knowing how that can happen, we need to work and better understand our fascia. When our fascia is sticky we not only are more prone to injury, but don’t expect your body awareness to be heightened any time soon. If you can’t think about it you can feel it, if you can’t feel it you can change it, if you can’t change it you’re stuck.
  4. Nothing changes in a day. Fascia takes on average six to twenty-four months to begin to change. Those international highways you have created in your body, the ones you are using to get where you want to go fast and now, have possibly (now or in the near future) left you having to go back and find the country roads again. Practice gentle perseverance: too fast =fascial injury. And combine that with mindless movement, exercise, whatever, and you have got yourself a lot of undoing to do.
  5. Cultivate healthy fascia. Grow what Anatomy Trains calls a fascial ‘garden’. This garden is a healthy combination of physiological and psychological milieu. And in order to grow that healthy garden (your body) you absolutely without a doubt need usable sources of protein taken in on a daily basis, good usable sources of Vitamin C, and healthy hydration patterns: drink, rest, move your fascia, repeat.

Until a few years ago fascia was very new to me, and until recently was I able to truly even begin to wrap my head around fascial concepts, especially the ones that ask us to reconsider and relearn that which we were taught about the body for the last several hundred years. I often ask my students to simply humor me and humor themselves as they step into this new method of moving and training the body. To start off that journey I simply ask “is what you are doing now, getting you the results you want, injury free and leaving you feeling better or worse afterwards?” When you begin to understand fascia you being to work smarter not harder, and your body feels and expresses the difference for you each and every movement of each and every day.

Have a fasc-tastic day!

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