Forever Fascia: The Genesis Story of a Whole-body System and How to Treat it at Home.
Anyone who has reclined on my table or talked to me about my conception of our corporal experience, has heard me mention fascia. Fascia is a pliable and unbelievably strong network of connective tissue that spans our entire body from head to toe. Similar to how its weblike precursor was present in the developmental origami that brought us from a few cells to full-fledged human beings with all our bells, bowels and whistles, the facets of fascial function and form and their application continue to unfold in my mind and in my body therapy practice. My first impulse is to go on about all the ways fascia has earned my deep respect as a mover and bodyworker, but I’ll just start with the beginning for today.
Our development begins with one large cell which, after a handful of divisions, becomes a sphere of cells (a blastophere) with three types of embryonic tissues that differentiate into every organ, bone, and system within our fully formed body. This sphere folds in on itself to form the trilaminar disc. This is the plane where all three of these embryonic tissues meet, where the precursor to our spinal column is centered, and where the rest of our body is organized around.
The middle layer of the trilaminar disc, surrounding the precursor of our spine, is called the mesoderm. Here, cells with the propensity to develop into many different kinds of tissue form a network and spread out between all three embryonic tissues to form the “reticular net”. This net is held together by an immature form of collagen called reticulin that will eventually be replaced by collagen as the cells of the network are retained in each layer of tissue as we develop.
From this embryonic foundation, fascia develops throughout the entire body as one singular connective network. Continuous, made of viscous ground substance and unbelievably strong fiber, which imbue it with the integrity, plasticity, and flexibility we need to be able in any capacity.
And thus, we have the genesis story of the fascial network which innervates every tissue in our body who’s thickenings and lines of tension give way to our ligaments; tendons; habitual holding patterns; and hormonal, nutrient, and waste distribution in our body.
The fascial system directly influences and encases the fluid and neural signaling systems, which make up the other two “whole-body communicating networks”(2). Fascia also transmits vibrational information at rates thought to be many times faster than the nervous system (1) making it one of three “whole-body communicating networks” (2) and makes it’s role in the body much more than solely structural. The fascial system holds everything where it should be and coordinates the entire body. I’ll dive into more details around these ideas another time.
For now, I’ll leave you with just the story of the beginnings fascia: the network that makes both the body and my practice a single coherent unit.
OFFERING: STRETCHING FOR THE FASCIAL SYSTEM
Where do you feel stiffness in your body? Try stretching this area longer for a practice that will settle into your fascia and create longer lasting results instead of a superficial relief that will just rebound back.
It’s simple. Get into a relaxed position where you are just gently stretching the area of your body you want to focus on, ideally using mostly gravity. Breathe deep into your belly to signal to your body that it can relax and consciously try to relax as many muscles as possible. Chill here for 5 minutes. Switch sides if applicable.
For example, if you are trying to release your back, lay on your back, bring your knees to your chest and hug your arms around your bent knees so your back has just a little more space than normal. Breathe and relax here. You can also roll back and forth if that feels right. I do this stretch and recommend it often.
Go easy. Try it out. Relax. And notice how you might feel release and relief.
Findley, Thomas W., and Robert Schleip. Fascia Research: Basic Science and Implications for Conventional and Complementary Health Care. Elsevier/Urban & Fischer, 2007.
Myers, Thomas M. Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists. Elsevier, 2014. Print.