Fascia – The body’s glue
There is a tissue in the human body that is often neglected in many anatomy books & courses, although it is one of the most important: the FASCIA!
We are all made of fascia! Every single muscle and nerve fibre is wrapped in a thin membrane of fascia. Groups of fibres are also held together by other fascious membranes and the same type of tissue connects the muscles and organs to the bones and interconnects them with each other. The Fascia has three very different jobs to fulfill:
- to give Stability and hold the different tissues together
- to provide Elasticity and give each bone and organ enough space for their movements and functions
- to transport Prana through the energy channels (Meridians) of the body
Seeing how different these functions are, even though it is the same ´tissue,´ it is important that we have a better understanding of it. As well as how can we enhance each of the independent functions without neglecting another. Fascia is made of Collagen, Elastane and Water.
Water serves as the base in which the energy channels (Meridians) are conducting Prana throughout the body. If there are any blockages in the fascia, energy gets stuck and our health is in danger. Collagen fibers act like glue, providing stability at joints and other places where different structures need to connect with each other. Elastane fibers bring elasticity into the fascia, so that a certain amount of movement is guaranteed.
For example, let´s look at the hip joint. A ball-and-socket that allows a wide range of movement while also giving tremendous stability to walk through life with strong legs and the responsibility of dealing with the weight of the whole upper body.
How can we increase stability without losing elasticity?
The ligaments, tendons and joint capsule of the hip joint– each one of them a type of fascia – hold the head of the femur bone attached to the acetabulum (the cavity within the pelvis bones) and provides stability at this joint. To enhance this function we must assure conscious muscle action and proper alignment in standing Yang poses.
How can we become more flexible without losing stability and strength?
The elastan particles in the ligaments and tendons have the capacity to let go in an appropriate way and allow the femur bone to move in different directions. Holding a YIN pose for several minutes (ex: Butterfly pose) with relaxed muscles helps the fascia in this target area to gain more elasticity and opens the hip joint on a very deep level; we provide more range of movement at this joint and obtain more flexibility.
I often am asked in my workshops and anatomy classes: “Isn´t it dangerous to stretch ligaments and tendons?”
We must allow ligaments, tendons and other fascia the opportunity to let go, receive stress and become more elastic and stronger. But we need to know how to reach these tissues without risking injury. The fascia itself can not contract voluntarily, however over time it tightens and loses elasticity with age and immobility.
Fascia needs time to let go and stay healthy and elastic. Yin Yoga is an excellent tool to reach these tissues without injury. If we want the fascia around a joint take full advantage in a Yin pose, the muscles of the target area must be completely relaxed. Relaxed muscles create more space between the bones adding positive stress to the tendons and ligaments which balances strength and flexibility in the fascia.
Every ligament has a different structure and composition of collagen and elastan depending on their location and function. Though ligaments whose function is more about stability, like the crucial ligaments of the knee, need less mobility and therefore less ´stretching´ than ligaments whose function is more for mobility, like those around the spine.
Let´s give the FASCIA in our body more attention! Treat them to appropriate poses with time to let go and you will be rewarded with strength and flexibility that allows healthy organs, deep breathing and unblocked emotions.