My guess is that most of you reading this post have heard of the term “self-myofascial release”, but perhaps are not familiar with what it really means. Hopefully, by reading on, you will have a better understanding of what it is, and why it is becoming so popular in the Pilates, Fitness, & Wellness world.

First of all, what is fascia? Fascia is a specialized system of the body that is made up of densely-packed web-like collagen fibers that wrap around each of your internal organs and connect them to your muscles and bones. That said, fascia also lies right beneath your skin and above your muscle tissue, and when it’s healthy, allows for pain-free movement throughout the body. It is also a fluid system that every cell in your body relies on for proper functioning. You have likely seen fascia before, for example, the shiny “saran wrap” covering around a raw chicken breast is fascial tissue. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings, it is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. With that in mind, you can begin to understand how each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater.

Your fascia has the ability to contract and relax independently of the muscles it surrounds. Because of this, it can respond to stress without you knowing it! Needless to say, when your fascia is tight or inflamed it can cause a great deal of pain and inhibit movement. In fact, it can be a primary source of chronic or referral pain for many people.

Fascia also affects your health in many ways, from how you feel to how you look and more. Fascia actually acts as a secondary nervous system in your body as it is loaded with receptor membranes that communicate with all of the other receptor membranes in your body. This is why, for example, sometimes when your feet hurt, your whole body hurts!

Fascia also protects you from injury. It actually stretches and moves to support your body and protects you from overstretching (a concept we call tensegrity). However, if you get injured, your fascia adapts to protect from further injury, which sometimes can create problems.  Likewise, if you sit all day at a computer with your head forward and your upper back rounded, you put abnormal stress on your fascia, and in turn it adapts & molds itself along the lines of your posture – with the end result that your shoulders hunch forward and the circulation of blood, lymph, and energy to your chest, lungs, and heart become suboptimal.

Dry and tight fascia also contribute to aging, and is often at the center of chronic pain, illness, injury, and the limited mobility many people associate with simply “getting older”. Conversely, healthy fascia is a fountain of youth! Proper hydration and good nutrition are key factors in preventing the fascia from becoming dry and tight,… so drink up!

Believe it or not, fascia also holds your emotional memories. Sadness, pain and past trauma can get locked deep in your fascia. If you have ever found yourself crying on the massage or acupuncture table, it’s because the therapy has assisted you in releasing emotions, including anxiety, fear and anger, that can take up residence in your fascia.

The benefits of facial release are numerous. From less pain to better posture, deeper breathing to increased energy, improved flexibility and coordination to better fitting clothes! In fact, many athletes, dancers, and musicians use fascial release techniques to keep themselves in peak condition for their profession. Some of the ways we can keep our fascia healthy involve release techniques, either assisted or by self-myofascial release with various props, the foam roller being the most popular and accessible. Other ways to keep our fascia healthy involves proper hydration and good nutrition as mentioned above.

If you would like to learn how to perform self-myofascial release using the foam roller, come and join us at Balance on Saturdays at 10:30 am for my “Pilates Mat Re: Form” class where you will utilize the foam roller while incorporating the principles of the Pilates method. The focus is on enabling myofascial release on all areas of the body while challenging your body’s ability to balance as we strengthen your core and postural muscles. The class is suitable for athletes, weekend warriors, and anyone who seeks release from tight muscles and joints. Book online, email, or message us using our contact page.