I love this photo I took in Dorset, near Lyme Regis, of an amazing web-like pattern on a rock. It reminds me of this fantastic structure in our body, called fascia, that supports us, connects the musculoskeletal system together, and plays an important role in communication, nervous system regulation, proprioception and perception of danger vs safety. Becoming fascia-aware and loving our fascia is essential to our health. But why haven’t we heard more about it in the same breath we talk about muscles, bones and ligaments?
Part of the problem is that even experts have struggled to define fascia, and it has received only “minor attention” because it was long thought to be passive tissue. Fortunately, there is much more information now, mostly due to some amazing contemporary breakthrough research in the medical field. Fascia takes many forms, from stretchy to stiff. It appears throughout the body, and because it’s so widespread, keeping your fascia healthy is essential.
What are the benefits of keeping fascia healthy?
improved body symmetry and alignment
increased blood flow, which means faster exercise recovery, faster healing and better homeostasis
reduced appearance of stretch marks and cellulite
scar tissue breakdown
reduced risk of injury
less day-to-day pain
improved sports performance
mental suppleness and mood regulation
Whilst healthy fascia is malleable enough to slide, glide, twist, and bend, pain-free, when it’s unhealthy, fascia is sticky, clumpy, tight, and flaky. It forms restrictions, adhesions and distortions (knots).
What causes unhealthy fascia?
a sedentary lifestyle
overusing or injuring your muscles
unhealthy eating habits
poor sleep quality
How to improve your fascia health
You can choose various stretching exercises to do for 10-20 minutes every day or longer sequences to amount to 2 hours every week. I have prepared a little video with a short sequence of lower body stretches. Hopefully you will find it helpful. For best results, hold the stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute, but don’t force yourself into a deepness or position that causes pain. If something is not available to you, just skip it. The sequence includes:
Piriformis stretching by sitting on a chair and folding one leg at a time over the knee
Sit on your heels by bringing the heels and ankles together (1st Stage); Tuck your toes, ball on the foot on the floor. (2nd Stage). If this is hard at the beginning put a blanket under your shins and another one under your calves.
Roll a tennis ball or a roller under your feet. Adjust the pressure as you wish.
Deep calf stretch on a rolled blanket. Place your feet as high up the roll as possible. Stay for a minute or longer. Bring the weight to the inner foot.
Hamstring stretch. Cross your right ankle over the left ankle. Try to line up the pinky toes as close as possible. Bend forward and reach your hands to the floor or towards a chair or blocks.. Repeat both sides.
Check your posture and make sure you have the weight of your body well spread through your feet (50-50 on each feet, not on the toes, not on the heels, just in the middle).
Lift all ten toes, spread them open and put them back down 3x; Lift just the big toes 3x; Keep the big toes down, lift all the other toes, spread them open and put them down.
Keep moving in a varied way! Walking, dancing and trying different exercise modalities such as HIIT or other low intensity exercises programs like yoga or pilates are great to keep your fascia fluid and hydrated. I have come across this playful movement program run by Darryl Edwards (primalplay.com). His set of 'animal moves' cards are great to engage with movement in a playful way, 10 minutes a day at a time! Alternating between a low intensity modality and a cardio activity is the way forward...
3. VISIT A SAUNA
Especially after the gym... Have you got any advice on the best sauna in Bristol and surroundings?
4. HAVE A COLD BATH
Cold waters swimming has been on the rise during the pandemic, as people felt they could release stress and fear by dipping into cold waters and shock themselves out of pandemic fatigue. If swimming or a cold bath is not for you, just try washing your face and neck with cold water. This practice activate your vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system, inducing some temporary relaxation in the fascial network.
5. KEEP YOUR FASCIA HYDRATED
Drink at least 1.5 L of water per day. Keep a water bottle always with you.
6. USE A BENDER BALL OR FOAM ROLL
Bender balls are cheap to buy and you can use them in many ways. By rolling them over any area of tension in your body, you can facilitate a release in the connective tissues. You can adjust the pressure as you wish.
7. GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
Bowen Therapy can help you reset your congested fascia over one or a series of treatments depending on the level of restriction and on how long the symptoms have persisted. Bowen works by stimulating the superficial and deep line fascia through a series of rolling moves all along structural points in the body. To book a FREE consultation or a treatment book here.