Fas­cia Fit­ness

Even just a few min­utes of fas­cial-re­lease work can have a pro­found ef­fect on your yoga prac­tice and over­all well-be­ing. Learn more here, then tar­get com­mon trou­ble spots with a sim­ple lower-body rou­tine— you’ll feel the dif­fer­ence in­stantly.

Yoga Journal - - CONTENTS - By Ariele Foster

These my­ofas­cial-re­lease tech­niques will boost both flex­i­bil­ity and com­fort in your poses—and your life.


when I re­ceived my­ofas­cial re­lease from a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist af­ter in­jur­ing my ro­ta­tor cuff in a yoga class. Af­ter the hands-on treat­ment, which in­volved ap­ply­ing gen­tle pres­sure to con­nec­tive tis­sue, my dis­com­fort was ame­lio­rated in less than thirty min­utes. Al­though it wasn’t a com­plete cure, right away I could move my shoul­der again with­out pain.

Soon af­ter my shoul­der re­cov­ery, I be­gan prac­tic­ing self-my­ofas­cial re­lease, us­ing a foam roller, ball, or other de­vice in con­junc­tion with my body weight for tar­geted, ther­a­peu­tic pres­sure that helps cre­ate more tis­sue mo­bil­ity.

My quads had been tight from daily cy­cling. Foam rolling along the fronts of my thighs be­fore yoga helped elim­i­nate the com­pres­sive knee pain that I’d of­ten felt in poses like Bhekasana (Frog Pose)—in which you bend your knees to bring your heels to­ward your hips. (If you have this prob­lem, see page 71.)

Your fas­cial net­work is like scaf­fold­ing through­out your en­tire body. It’s even part of the ex­tra­cel­lu­lar ma­trix (the goo be­tween your cells) that helps bind your cells to­gether. Myo refers to mus­cle; and fas­cia is the net­work of con­nec­tive tis­sue that sur­rounds and in­cludes your mus­cles. This web­bing is in­volved in mus­cu­loskele­tal well-be­ing and pro­pri­o­cep­tive ca­pac­ity (body sense, or know­ing where you are in space), and it in­flu­ences how sig­nals of sen­sa­tion (like pain) travel from your body to your brain.

The fibers of your body are de­signed to slide and glide over one an­other dur­ing move­ment. How­ever, whether due to in­jury or repet­i­tive ac­tions like cy­cling, run­ning, or re­peat­ing yoga poses, ar­eas of tis­sue can be­come thick­ened and in­flamed and tug on the fas­cial net­work fur­ther up the chain. (Think of it like a soft net. Pulling on one piece tugs on the whole net, af­fect­ing other ar­eas.) The re­sult is that the fas­cial sheaths that en­case the mus­cles no longer have as much give and can be­come wound up like a wrung-out dishrag, con­tribut­ing to re­stric­tions, strain, and even­tu­ally pain. Fas­cial re­lease im­proves the slide and glide of your tis­sues and also hy­drates them through the act

Your fas­cial net­work is like scaf­fold­ing that runs through­out your en­tire body. It’s in­volved in mus­cu­loskele­tal well-be­ing, and it in­flu­ences how sig­nals of sen­sa­tion travel from your body to your brain.

of com­press­ing and re­leas­ing, like a sponge.

Re­search on fas­cial re­lease is still pre­lim­i­nary and emerg­ing, but a 2015 review in the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal

of Sports Phys­i­cal Ther­apy sup­ports what I ex­pe­ri­enced. The review of 14 sci­en­tific papers sug­gests that fas­cial re­lease with a foam roller in­creases short-term range of mo­tion dur­ing ex­er­cise with­out neg­a­tively af­fect­ing mus­cle per­for­mance. Gen­tly rolling, drap­ing, or os­cil­lat­ing dif­fer­ent mus­cle re­gions over balls (think ten­nis, lacrosse, or grippy my­ofas­cial re­lease balls like RAD Roller or Yoga Tune Up balls) or a foam roller pushes on fas­cia be­tween your bones, mus­cles, or­gans, and nerve fibers—free­ing up more mo­bil­ity than is achiev­able with pas­sive stretch­ing alone. Per­haps most in­ter­est­ingly, re­search shows that my­ofas­cial re­lease in­flu­ences your ner­vous sys­tem, which largely gov­erns the base­line tone (taut­ness) of mus­cles. Your fas­cial net­work is rich in sen­sory nerve end­ings, and gen­tle pres­sure on your fas­cia may help com­mu­ni­cate to your ner­vous sys­tem that there is no longer any need for in­creased ten­sion in that area.

Even less than five min­utes of self-my­ofas­cial re­lease a day will be a great com­ple­ment to your yoga prac­tice (and can be squeezed into the time be­tween rolling out your mat and the start of class). One of the best places to be­gin is at your feet, which serve as your body’s front line of de­fense in fight­ing gen­eral joint wear and tear. The plan­tar fas­cia, a dense fi­brous fan of con­nec­tive tis­sue on the un­der­side of your feet, plays a role in ab­sorb­ing and dis­tribut­ing the im­pact of each and every step you take. It also plays a role in dis­tribut­ing weight when you’re sta­tion­ary. The plan­tar fas­cia has fi­brous con­nec­tions to your Achilles ten­dons (which an­chor your calves to your heels), and then to the fas­cial sheath of your calf mus­cles, ham­strings, gluteal fibers, lower back, and skull. It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion that ad­dress­ing the fas­cial work­ings of your feet and legs has the po­ten­tial to re­lieve aches and pains as high up as your neck.

Af­ter your feet and legs, your hips are an­other great place to tar­get for fas­cial re­lease, be­cause gen­tle pres­sure here—an area com­pressed for much of the day due to sit­ting—can re­new blood flow to re­stricted ar­eas, im­prov­ing cir­cu­la­tion and mus­cu­lar health.

Pro­mote the fit­ness of your fas­cia with the lower­body fas­cial-re­lease ex­er­cises on the next pages for feet, legs, and hips. Then pair each ex­er­cise with a yoga pose. Each my­ofas­cial re­lease has the po­ten­tial to im­prove mo­bil­ity ef­fi­ciently and safely, so you can ex­pe­ri­ence more ease through­out your yoga prac­tice—and off the mat.

If you ex­pe­ri­ence in­creased range of mo­tion or com­fort in a pose af­ter a fas­cial-re­lease move, this may be a spot that de­serves more reg­u­lar at­ten­tion. Give it a try and see what you un­cover.

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