‘First, many think of fascia as a glorified body stocking – a seamless piece of tissue that cling film wraps you just underneath the skin. While this is true of the superficial fascia, it’s important to understand it is a richly multi-dimensional tissue that forms your internal soft tissue architecture.
From the superficial (“body stocking”) fascia, it dives deep and forms the pods (called fascicles) that actually create your musculature like a honeycomb from the inside out. Imagine what it looks like when you bite into a wedge of orange and then look at those individually wrapped pods of juice. We’re like that too! Fascia also connects muscle to bone (tendons are considered a part of the fascial system), and bone to bone (ligaments are also considered a part of the fascial system), slings your organ structures, cushions your vertebrae (yep, your discs are considered a part of this system, too), and wraps your bones.’
-Brook Thomas. You can read the full article here: www.http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/the-top-5-ways-fascia-matters-to-athletes
In October 2019 Charlotte and Sally held a very successful one day introductory workshop dedicated to body workers and movement professionals, who have a passion for movement and embodiment of integral anatomy. In this interactive and practical workshop, they gave an understanding of the importance of fascia and how it integrates with all the other systems of the body.
Charlotte and Sally have spent many years teaching Pilates, Garuda, Dance and Equipment Pilates. They recently completed a 5 month intensive Fascial Anatomy course with Ana Barretxeguren and are keen to share their knowledge with body workers. After the success of this Workshop, they are hoping to do another one later this year.
Fascia is a tensional fluid system.
While it’s difficult for us to understand how a support structure could be a fluid structure – Juicy fascia is happy fascia. The best analogy I have found is of a sponge. When a sponge dries out it becomes brittle and hard. It can easily be broken with only a little force because of how crispy it has become. However, when a sponge is wet and well hydrated it gets springy and resilient. You can crush it into a little ball and it bounces back. You can wring it and twist it, but it is difficult to break.
Once we understand that we’re like that on the inside, keeping our fascia hydrated takes on more importance. Our mobility, integrity, and resilience are determined in large part by how well hydrated our fascia is. In fact, what we call “stretching a muscle” is actually the fibres of the connective tissue (collagen) gliding along one another. Special proteins called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs for short) depending on their chemistry, can glue layers together when water is absent, or allow them to skate and slide on one another when hydrated. This is one of the reasons most injuries are fascial. If we get “dried out” we are more brittle and are at much greater risk for erosion, a tear, or a rupture.
So drink more water right? Well, yes and no. Staying hydrated via drinking continues to be important, but if you have dehydrated fascia it’s more like you have these little kinks in your “hoses” (microvacuoles), and so all that water you drink can’t actually reach the dehydrated tissue and gets urinated away, never having reached the crispy tissue. To be able to get the fluid to all of your important nooks and crannies you need to first get better irrigated (via the microvacuoles.And to do that, you’ve got to get work on your soft tissue to untangle those gluey bits.
Movement also gets the hydration out to the tissue as well, but that movement needs to be varied. This means variation not just of the movements themselves, but also variation of tempo. Not only does moving constantly in the same ways and in the same planes put you at further risk for joint erosion (osteoarthritis), but you are also dehydrating the fascia in a particular pattern, thus setting you up for that brittle tissue that injuries love so much.
Let’s use an example of wearing a tightly knit sweater. If you tug on one end of that sweater, you see the pull travel long distance to other ends of the sweater. For athletes, this brings the dreaded domino effect into a clearer perspective.
Many of you have experienced the domino effect without having had a name for it. First, your neck gets injured in a minor whiplash in that teeny tiny no big deal car accident that you had when you were sixteen years old. But you’re sixteen years old, so you ignore it and it gets better. But once you enter college, suddenly you have this nagging shoulder pain with all the extra typing and sitting you’re doing. As the years go by you start to think of yourself as the “tight-shouldered” person, and sometimes you have a pinching pain when you lift your arm. More years go by and you are now not only a “tight-shouldered person,” but you also suffer from occasional low back spasms and have developed plantar fasciitis, which you assume must be because you’re a runner and everyone says running is bad for you. I could go on, and this is just one quick sketch of one type of domino effect out of the infinite possibilities, but you get the idea.
Now this little titbit of recent fascial research was a shocker. It turns out fascia is one of our richest sensory organs with between six to ten times higher quantity of sensory nerve receptors than the muscles! In fact, it is possible fascia may be equal or superior to the retina, which has so far been considered the richest human sensory organ.5
This makes your fascia a system of proprioception – i.e. of knowing where your body is in space. Therefore, well-hydrated and supple fascia is crucial to maintaining your natural settings for alignment and function. And maintaining those natural settings will keep small problems from developing into larger ones, keep injuries from becoming chronic issues that flare in and out of life, and keep you mobile and functional for longer through life – as in moving well, but also the perks of that, some of which are avoiding nasty surgeries and joint replacements.