In recent years you may have noticed that “fascia” has become a big trend on the yoga scene. There are many theories around this connective tissue in our bodies which still poses a great mystery for scientists. However, this is what research found out so far:
- From the day humans are conceived, we consist of fascia. It is a sticky and fluid network of fabric that holds us together and which constantly adapts to all our movements.
- Fascia lies deep within our muscular tissue but also connects them to each other. In addition, it is also present in more superficial parts of our body, where it holds our tendons, blood vessels and nerves together.
- With time, injuries can cause this fabric to become thick and inflexible, thus causing restrictions and pain within this tissue. The results are little knots and tensions within our fascia and muscles which need to be released.
What Is Fascial Release?
When we talk about fascial release, it is important to make a distinction between myofascial release, which is the practice of applying pressure to the connective fascial tissue and fascial release, which you can basically do yourself at home. Myofascial release therapy is usually executed by trained practitioners. Alternatively, it can be done at home by using foam rollers or your own hands, which we then would call “self-myofascial release.”
If the sound of foam rollers or visiting a practitioner does not sound too appealing to you, then I have great news for you: Yoga, and especially Yin Yoga, is a great way to release your fascia!
How Yoga and Fascia Work Together
It has been proven that as little as 5 minutes of fascia releasing yoga a day can greatly improve stiffness, ease pain, and lead to greater flexibility. While most forms of yoga are a great way to release this inner tissue, there is also a different form of yoga which is even more effective: Yin Yoga.
Yin Yoga is an especially slow-paced form of yoga, where asanas are held over a longer period of time than most typical yoga styles. These prolonged yoga poses apply pressure on your muscles and thus on your fascia, helping to untie all those knots and tensions that have built up over time. The important thing to know about Yin Yoga is that even though Yin Yoga poses are very similar to Hatha Yoga, their respective names are different and should not be confused. Moreover, due to its more relaxed pace, it is an approach that also focuses much more on meditation.
Earlier I mentioned that fascia is a network that can be found throughout our body. This means that if you practice poses that stretch a particular part of your body, it is important to concentrate not just on this one part, but rather on your whole body. The reason being that a release in one stretched part of your body can lead to a fascial release in another part as well. Even just positioning your hand or foot differently can lead to a release elsewhere.
Which Yoga Poses Provide Fascial Release?
If you still feel left in the dark about fascia and how it can provide relief, try for example the evergreen classic: the downward facing dog. The stretches in your calves are the perfect example of fascia-focused yoga. While you are holding this pose, try to focus your attention on your whole body: What does the stretching of your calves do to the soles of your feet? How does my neck feel when I also try to relax my tongue? Remember, it is all intertwined and connected to each other.
Otherwise, I would recommend that you hold your yoga poses longer than usual (approximately 45 seconds at the beginning) in order to really feel your fascia release its tension. Especially floor-based asanas can be held easier and provide extra relief in your fascial tissue.
A Slow and Steady Pace Is the Key
While yoga is a great way to release your fascia, it is also important to remember to be aware of this connective tissue in your daily life. Although yoga certainly contributes to the flexibility of your muscles, fascial tensions can still result from surprisingly high levels of stress as well as bad posture. You can imagine how unhappy our fascia must be after a long day at work where we barely move!
This is why you should remember to try to take little breaks throughout the day to stretch those areas of your body that feel stiffest. Try to straighten your upper body whenever you feel like you are slouching – even such a little improvement in posture can help your fascial system to stay in constant flow and prevent blockages.
Just remember: Slow and steady is the key…enjoy!
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Natasa Brasik, a yoga teacher based in Austria with an emphasis on Therapeutic and Hatha Yoga. With a background in medicine, she offers individual (online) yoga classes, where she designs specific programs for her clients with a focus on pain relief as well as back and joint health. Moreover, during the summer she organizes multiple yoga and sailing retreats across Croatia’s islands. For more information on individual sessions as well as her retreats, head over to Carpe Diem Yoga.
Thanks for this great article Natasa! I am a yoga teacher and Yin is one of my absolute favorites to teach. The attention to the connective tissue affects our bodies in such a different way. I’m going to share this with my students.
Hi Amy, thank you for your kind feedback, I really appreciate it! 🙂 I completely agree with you and if you need any more information for your students, I’d be more than happy to help you. All the best, Natasa
Thanks for sharing.
I suffer from connective tissue disease and have to hold my PT stretches for much longer than the average person. I’ve had a tenex procedure and Graston technique for chronic plantar fasciitis. Time to add Yin yoga to the mix.