MYOFASCIAL MAS­SAGE Re­leas­ing our con­nec­tive tis­sue can of­fer real, long-term ben­e­fits.

Myofascial re­lease is the lat­est well­ness trend and for good rea­son: re­leas­ing our con­nec­tive tis­sue can of­fer real, long-last­ing bene ts and an un­der­stand­ing of what our bod­ies need, says Jo Carnegie

In the Moment - - Contents -

Myofascial re­lease. It’s said to be a mas­sage like no other. I’d heard the term be­ing bandied around in rev­er­ent tones for a while. “They’re meant to be amaz­ing, aren’t they?” said one friend. “Ap­par­ently the re­lease is in­cred­i­ble,” said an­other. Some­one else re­ported that their hus­band had come across myofascial mas­sage and it had “prac­ti­cally cured” his frozen shoul­der and sti neck. As some­one who sits in front of a com­puter for a liv­ing, I was all too fa­mil­iar with sore shoul­ders and neck nig­gles. I was in.

Fas­cia is fast be­com­ing the new buzz­word in the well­ness world. The fth an­nual In­ter­na­tional Fas­cia Congress takes place in Ber­lin this win­ter and ev­ery­one from pro­fes­sional sports­peo­ple to stressed city work­ers to preg­nant moth­ers are reap­ing the bene ts.

But be­fore we go any fur­ther, what ex­actly is fas­cia? “The fas­cia acts as the body’s shock ab­sorber, en­cas­ing all of the mus­cles like a web­bing,” ex­plains Sophia Or­tiz, who runs the Bris­tol Mas­sage Space Com­pany (www.bris­tol­mas­sages­ “The fas­cial sys­tem sup­ports and con­nects ev­ery mus­cle, lig­a­ment, ten­don, or­gan and tis­sue in the body.” If you need a more of a vis­ual ref­er­ence, think of the fas­cia like the white pith when you peel an orange, hold­ing all the seg­ments in place.

So, why would our fas­cia need re­leas­ing?

For one thing, it’s con­tin­u­ally grow­ing, bind­ing to­gether to pro­vide that sup­port to the body. While this is an im­por­tant part of our nor­mal func­tion, too much of this may lead to fas­cia build­ing up in cer­tain ar­eas of the body, pre­vent­ing move­ment or range of mo­tion – it’s the same rea­son why you feel sti af­ter sleep­ing, or need to stretch when you’ve been

sit­ting in a chair at your desk all day. While nor­mal ac­tiv­ity or stretch­ing can pre­vent this build-up from hap­pen­ing, ex­tended pe­ri­ods of in­ac­tiv­ity, or in­jury, can re­quire more at­ten­tion. “Fas­cia with trauma or in­jury sticks to­gether,” ex­plains Sophia. “When left un­treated, this can lead to hard­en­ing, pain and re­duced free­dom of move­ment.”

This is where myofascial mas­sage comes in. “I de­scribe Myofascial Re­lease (MFR) as a gen­tle, non-in­va­sive form of re­set­ting and steam­rol­ler­ing the body – but in a re­ally nice and re­lax­ing way!” Sophia says. “It’s a technique that has been around for about 50 years, but it’s be­come a lot more pop­u­lar re­cently. It’s an ex­cit­ing technique to add to a prac­ti­tioner’s tool kit and is es­pe­cially bene cial for work­ing with in­jury, due to its gen­tle na­ture.” Whether you’re in­jured or just look­ing to work into some of those ten­sion ar­eas, ev­ery­one from pro­fes­sional sports­peo­ple to stressed city work­ers and even preg­nant moth­ers can reap the bene ts.

Af­ter learn­ing all this, it’s fair to say that

I was in­trigued, and I booked my own MFR treat­ment with Sophia. Over the years I’ve had more mas­sages than hot din­ners, but I’ve never re­ally found a mas­sage that has hit the spot, or had last­ing bene cial e ects. I’ve al­ways been a fan of the mantra ‘the harder the bet­ter’, but with Sophia, it was a com­pletely di er­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from the start.

Rather than get­ting to work on my mus­cles, she laid her hands on me un­til I started to feel my­self re­lax. It felt a bit like some­one coax­ing a tense an­i­mal to calm down (which is prob­a­bly how my poor body nor­mally feels when I go for a mas­sage). As I lay there with Sophia’s warm hands on me, I could feel the ten­sion start­ing to dis­si­pate. And this was be­fore any of the ac­tual ‘mas­sag­ing’ had taken place.

Next up, Sophia em­ployed more tra­di­tional mas­sage move­ments but it still felt di er­ent. It sounds odd, but it felt like she was be­ing guided by some­thing other than what I’d told her. As she be­gan gen­tly knead­ing my knots (painful, yet bliss­ful), I was will­ing her to my sti shoul­ders. In­stead, her hands went up to hold, and then mas­sage, the length of my neck. When she got to my jaw line, I re­alised just how much ten­sion was ac­tu­ally stored there, rather than in my tra­di­tional prob­lem ar­eas. And so the process went on: hold, re­lease, mas­sage, move on.

Af­ter­wards I felt a tremen­dous sense of light­ness and space around my up­per body that went be­yond the phys­i­cal. The e ect lasted well into the next few days and be­yond. I was mov­ing bet­ter and gen­er­ally just feel­ing bet­ter. I’d gone in there say­ing what I’d wanted and my body had ended up telling me what it needed. In re­leas­ing my con­nec­tive tis­sue, I’d found con­nec­tion with my body.

It all felt a bit like witchcraft, but Sophia wasn’t sur­prised. “With myofascial work, you’re en­gag­ing with a di er­ent part of the body than you’re used to,” she ex­plains. “It’s about sit­ting at that new bar­rier and al­low­ing it to soften. You let the body take you in di er­ent di­rec­tions rather than work­ing on iso­lated mus­cles. It’s like a con­tin­u­ous ‘liq­uid matrix’. It works fur­ther afield than where the prac­ti­tioner’s hands phys­i­cally are.”

I can see what she means; just one ex­pe­ri­ence of it has shown me the amaz­ing wis­dom of the body – if I just slow down and lis­ten to it, rather than telling it (and the per­son mas­sag­ing me) what needs do­ing. “The body is one mov­ing part and the fas­cia lit­er­ally con­nects our head right down to our toes,

com­mu­ni­cat­ing closely with our cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem,” says Sophia. Some­times we might get dis­tracted by the more su­per­fi­cial ‘spot checks’ when we go for a mas­sage, but the real work to be done is on a more in­stinc­tive level.

Myofascial work is also thought to be linked to our au­to­nomic ner­vous sys­tem, ac­ti­vat­ing the func­tions in our body that help us to ‘rest and di­gest’, cre­at­ing calm and re­lax­ation. The feel­ings that I ex­pe­ri­enced af­ter my mas­sage re­minded me of this same peace­ful vibe that I get af­ter I’ve done a yin yoga class, and it just so hap­pens that the two are very sim­i­lar in bene ts for mind and body.

In yin yoga, poses are held for longer pe­ri­ods of time than in other yoga styles any­thing from 45 sec­onds to ve min­utes or more. “Yin yoga and MFR share the prin­ci­ple of giv­ing the body time and space to un­wind and al­low­ing the tis­sues to re­turn to where they should be,” says Sophia.

Yoga teacher Jes­sica Wol (www.wild­wolf­ agrees. “Yin yoga brings aware­ness through the tis­sues of the body re­leas­ing ten­sion layer by layer,” she says. “We rest in be­tween poses, which is so bene cial in al­low­ing the fas­cial body to take heed of new lessons and ar­chi­tec­tures. It’s a great way to have a con­ver­sa­tion with the body.”

Our sci­enti c un­der­stand­ing of fas­cia and myofascial re­lease is still rel­a­tively new; more and more re­search is be­ing done to nd its long-term bene ts and how we can best in­cor­po­rate it into a rounded well­be­ing pro­gramme. But from the ex­pe­ri­ence of a hard­ened (quite lit­er­ally) mas­sage fan, I found my­self more rested and less stressed than af­ter any mas­sage I’ve had. Whether from mas­sage or yin yoga, I’m go­ing to in­cor­po­rate some myofascial magic in my life – even if I do still like a masochis­tic pum­melling from time to time.

Clock­wise from top left: sit­ting in one po­si­tion while work­ing can cause fas­cia build-up; myofascial mas­sage uses a hold/re­lease/mas­sage technique; Sophia of­fers myofascial re­lease at Bris­tol Mas­sage Space; fas­cia is a bit like tan­ger­ine pith.

Clock­wise from top right: yoga teacher Jess teaches yin,a dif­fer­ent method of myofascial re­lease; a spiky mas­sageball can help to re­lease fas­cia at home; even somesim­ple stretch­ing af­ter sit­ting still can help youPK I=EJP=EJ ATE>EHEPU

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