In this article we’re taking a deep dive into fascia, discussing its role within the body, explaining why maintaining healthy fascia is important, and finally how yoga can help influence your fascia.
But first, what exactly is ‘fascia’?
Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds all the vital components within the body. This includes our muscle fibres, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. Its presence in the body has been observed for many years, however the importance of maintaining healthy fascia has only been highlighted over the past decade.
Fascia is composed of multiple layers which are designed to stretch and glide over each other as we move, helping to lubricate our joints and muscles. However, when we become sedentary over long periods or overwork particular muscle groups, our layers of fascia become ‘sticky’ and are no longer able to glide over each other. This forms adhesions, which can lead to feelings of tightness, stiffness and reduced range of motion.
Most of us will no doubt have experienced this type of discomfort at some stage and attributed it to muscle stiffness or joint pain, however, the backache or neck pain you experience when you’ve been sitting at your desk all day may in fact be caused by your fascia.
So, how do you know if your pain or discomfort is fascia related? Well, in most cases movement helps to loosen fascia and restore its lubricating properties, so you should feel an improvement with exercise or stretching, however, if the issue is muscular or joint related movement will likely make the pain worse.
That being said, severe fascia adhesions that develop over a prolonged period can contort the surrounding muscles, giving rise to more complex issues such as myofascial pain syndrome, which occurs when pressure is exerted on sensitive points of your muscles.
How to promote healthy fascia
The best way to maintain healthy fascia or cure fascia related problems is movement and stretching, which makes yoga the perfect remedy.
The most effective stretches are those which target the myofascial lines - the main lines of connective tissue throughout the body, and we’ve outlined some of the best poses for this below.
1. Downward dog
Downward dog is a pose that targets the superficial back line (SBL). This runs from the bottom of the feet to the top of the head and is divided into two sections. The first runs from the toes to the knees and the second from the knees to the brow bone.
Downward dog is a great pose for lengthening both sections of the SBL, and if you want to get deep into your fascia try holding the pose for around 90-120 seconds.
2. Low lunge
The low lunge targets the superficial front line (SFL), which like the SBL, is divided into two parts. The first begins at the tops of the toes and ends at the hips and the second starts at the pelvic bone and ends at the top of the head. The low lunge targets the SFL from the knee upwards, stretching your quads, and hips and opening up the chest.
3. Extended side angle
This is a pose that targets the lateral line running from the midpoints of the foot, up the side of the leg and torso to the skull. It also targets the superficial front arm line, which runs from the sternum, along the rib cage, across the biceps and forearms, and all the way to the fingertips. Extended side angle pose provides a deep stretch along the lateral line, helping to remove any knots or ‘stickiness’ in the surrounding fascia.
4. Seated twist
Seated twist targets the spiral line, which begins at the arches of the feet and loops around in two opposing helices, crossing the ribs and the upper back. Poses that require the spine to twist, such as seated twist, are great for releasing tension along the spiral line and often help to relieve back pain.
Ready to give it a try?
These are just a few examples of poses that can influence your fascia, and hopefully, help release tension, ease pain and improve flexibility. However, there are many more poses that will have the same effect, which is why yoga is one of the best ways to look after your fascia!
Also, if you want to go even deeper, yoga blocks can be a great addition to your practice as they bring the ground closer to you and allow your body to truly give in to each pose. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our natural, eco-friendly cork yoga blocks along with our full range of yoga products and accessories.