What is Fascia?

If you come to my classes you will have heard the F-word frequently because there is an element of Fascia-focus in most of my classes or 1 to 1 sessions.

So what is Fascia + why does it matter?

Fascia is a type of connective tissue that is only recently studied + understood in fields of sports science + medicine. Fascia is now championed as flexible, strong + very adaptable tissue that is integral in our posture, movement + injury recovery.

It is made up 3 parts

  • FIBRES (mainly collagen + elastin) and
  • CELLS (fibroblasts + immune cells)
  • contained in a gel like fluid called GROUND SUBSTANCE (which pressurises the system + fills in any gaps or space in our body)

Fascia forms a continuous interconnected web-like system that exists from head to toe like a body suit layer under the skin.

In its deeper forms it acts like a cling film wrap around our muscles, organs, joints, bones, nerves + blood vessels. A bit like the pith + segmenting membranes of a citrus fruit.

Its function is to connect, protect + support our internal structures. It forms chains of support between them to give us shape + form + basically acts like an internal scaffold that holds us upright. It is fascia that withstands loads + impact + distributes force + tension through the chains while we move + perform our activities. This quality is known as ‘tensegrity’.

Fascia is also a SENSORY organ – it houses extremely high concentrations of neurons (nerve cells) which makes it an intelligent information highway. The tissue is capable of sensing the conditions accurately + communicating via the nervous system to inform our tissues how to alter or adapt, how to move + how to repair.

Unhealthy fascia is dehydrated + lacks pliability + oxygen. It leads to inflammation, fibrosis, adhesions, muscle weakness, muscle contraction, tendonitis, nerve damage, reduced range of motion, joint problems, higher risk of injury, impaired wound healing + PAIN.

On the other hand, healthy fascia is well hydrated, supple + unrestricted. It aids smooth slide + glide between connected tissues as well as efficient transportation of nutrients + fluids (lymph, blood) in and out of our tissues. Healthy fascia has effective tensegrity which aids posture + performance + protects against injury through efficient distribution of force through the body.

Recent studies suggest that a substantial share of our injuries occurs in the fascia – not in the muscle. And DOMS (Delayed Onset ‘Muscle’ Soreness) is now thought to be happening in fascia rather than muscle tissue. (Maybe we should start calling it DOFS!) It is also understood that while muscle injury recovers with around 6 weeks – fascial injury takes months

This suggests that FASCIA HEALTH is KEY to pain-free movement, performance, injury prevention + recovery.

For this reason, targeting fascia health regularly is recommended particularly post endurance, injury or surgery.

How to keep yOur fascia Healthy

HYDRATION~ Drink enough water. Stay hydrated.

MOVEMENT ~ be physically active daily particularly with age ~ collagen levels decline from age 30 + fascia relies on collagen for it’s strength + pliability.

POSTURE ~ manage your habitual posture + holding patterns through work, play + rest so as to support balanced form + alignment. Fascia will adapt to support our habitual shapes so make sure it adapts in a positive rather than negative way to support your habitual needs.

STRETCH ~ Passive stretching or compression – 5 times a week for as little as 1 to 2 mins can positively influence and adapt the fascia + connective tissue.

Here are a variety of methods + practices that I recommend to try to positively influence our Fascia:

  • YOGA particularly YIN YOGA which is ALL ABOUT passive stretching, compression or torsion. In Yin yoga we hold shapes / poses in a relaxed + supported way for a period of time (typically 2-5 mins). Passive influences an adaptive response in connective tissue (CT) + FASCIA.
  • MYOFASCIAL RELEASE (MFR) (auto massage using rollers + balls)
  • FASCIA MANOEVERS + QIGONG (an ancient martial practice that effectively targets fascia with join friendly movement + intention)

If you would like to LEARN MORE about fascia + keeping it healthy, I offer Workshops or Yin yoga series from time to time.

Contact me to note your interest or make a booking.

Note also if you are a yoga teacher or body worker + interested in COURSES in fascia health, MFR + Yin yoga my courses are eligible for CE accreditation with Yoga Alliance.

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