One of the reasons that fascia is so fascia-nating to me is because yoga practice is so good for it. Not just in terms of keeping it hydrated, moving and gliding well, and reducing tension, but because all of that, in turn, influences health in general in some really fascia-nating ways.
I’ve been working on a power point for a workshop I’ll be teaching later this year and so I thought I’d take a breather from that and try to distill this fascia-nating science (sorry, I promise I’ll stop now) down to 4 fascia. . . I mean “interesting” things about fascia.
- Fascia and Structure – it’s kinda like a jello mold
When I started studying anatomy in the late 1980s, the idea was to start with the skeleton and then build everything on to it. In other words the skeleton is the structural foundation. But that’s not entirely accurate.
The paradigm began to shift and we started to understand that each muscle is wrapped in a layer of fascia, kinda like saran wrap.
But that’s also not a great metaphor because fascia actually penetrates EVERYTHING right down to the cell nucleus. Better, may be this idea that we can see the muscles, nerves, organs (and to some extent even the bones) as actually suspended in fascia. Kinda like stuff in a jello mold. Fascia at once creates both structure and mobility in the body.
- Communication? Fascia is Fast!
All body movement generates bioelectromagnetic activity. Signals travel through the fascia like ripples on a pond, at about the speed of sound. Neuromuscular impulses are much slower, the fastest being something like 200 mph. Scientists who study this stuff believe the reason a tennis player like Serena Williams can return a lightening fast serve is because the fascia around the muscles communicates with the perineurium (the fascial sheath that surrounds the bundles of nerve fibers within a nerve). The nervous system alone would be too slow to be able to respond that fast. Anyway, since all the nerves and muscles are embedded in fascia, the systems necessarily always work together.
- Fascia affects your health
Capillaries are the tiny blood vessels that spread throughout the body and nourish cells. They are never more than 4 cells away from everything in your body. Capillaries excrete food, oxygen, messenger molecules (like from the endocrine/ immune systems) and more.
Fascia restrictions create barriers between your cells and the capillaries and that slows down the process of nutrition reaching the cells as well as wastes being carried away from them.This creates toxic build up.
Which may spur inflammatory responses leading perhaps to pain, as well as other health problems.
A free happy fascia system means that the capillaries can do their work more efficiently and this, ultimately, affects just about all aspects of health.
- Last Year Fascia got a New Name and “Organ” status.
I remember learning about the fascia system in the late 1980s when I was studying bodywork in California. At that time, fascia was considered by the medical world as just some sticky stuff that gets in the way when you try to do surgery.
But for us bodyworkers and yoga folks, fascia was super cool. It created tension in the body, but you could melt it like a superhero simply with the right light touch.
Last year western medicine finally got their fascia act together and declared it an organ.
They ceremoniously named it “The Interstitium.”
The good news is that having a new name and status means that it will be given more attention and perhaps research dollars. This may have implications in terms of research into fascia’s role in cancer, chronic pain and other chronic heath challenges.
Slow, mindful yoga practice is an excellent way to keep the fascia hydrated and healthy and in doing so – benefiting overall health in general.
Interested in learning more about the Science of Yoga? Check out my course, The Science of Slow!