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January 26, 2014

I am a Yoga Astronaut: Fascinated with Fascia! (Part 6) ~ Kirstie Bender Segarra

Continuing the Journey in the World of Fascia

In my last article, I explained how we are basically incorrect when we cue someone to move one part of the body without relating it to how it affects the whole.

I discussed the importance of the somatic quotient (SQ) and the kinetic quotient (KQ) and how we should include cueing that develops a somatic (awareness of the body) or kinetic (awareness of motion) awareness.

As yoga teachers, we need to be willing to explore the foundations of what we teach and deconstruct our assumptions with regards to movement. We could continue to teach the same sequences and repeat the same cues everyday. However, this would keep the field of yoga static, and we would fail in training our fascia.

It takes six months to two years to train the fascia. If you practice the same sequence everyday you are not creating the variety you need to train the fascia.

One way to think about it is to ask yourself, “How can I do X differently?”

In classic yoga stretches in which the muscles are relaxed, seated forward fold for example, we train the muscle and assist the nervous system in relaxing—but not the fascia.

To train the fascia, we need to engage the legs while going into the forward fold in what Tom Myers describes in his course on Fascial Fitness™ as “actively-loaded stretching.” To do this, bring the feet against a wall in staff pose, then press the feet against the wall while slowly moving into your seated forward fold.

Until you train the fascia, move slowly. Once it is trained, you can move faster without hurting it.

There are four types of fascia involved in stretching;

  1. tendons serial fascia (related to the tendon on one end of a muscle)
  2. circumferential fascia (imagine a sock wrapped around a muscle)
  3. parallel fascia (the fascia parallel to the muscle)
  4. extramuscular tissue (the cotton candy like fascia that connects one muscle to another)

As practitioners, we need to incorporate different kinds of stretching to train the fascia, including the loaded stretches I described earlier. It is our tendency to fall into repetitive patterns that gets us into trouble in the yoga world.

Variety is the key to success and the spice of life. As a yoga teacher, I am always exploring and looking for new ways to teach a pose. Additionally, I don’t teach the same sequence,

When we are in a bounce in our movement, hopping like a kangaroo, the muscles maintain an isometric contraction and the springy action is in the fascia—the ligaments and tendons. As Tom Myers states:

“You actually contract the muscles very little. You contract them in the sense that they contract, but they do not get much shorter at all. They stay at an isometric contraction and it is the tendon and the ligaments that spring out.”

With an actively-loaded stretch, we are training the springing action in the tendons and ligaments.

“We have six times as many fascial receptors around the muscles as you have receptors in the muscles itself.”

Now, this statement gets someone like me very excited. I love the mechanoreceptors and that our fascial body is the largest sensory organ. When we run around saying, “Oh, my back muscles ache,” we are missing the point. It is most likely your fascial body that is aching.

You would make my day if you walked into my bodywork practice and said “Kirstie, my fascial body is in pain.”

We really do need to stretch and train our fascia to get out of pain—more on that next time!

Asana is an incredible medium to shift who we are and prepare us for other pathways in yoga and meditation.

With each breath and sustained hold (actively-loaded stretch) we can create more space in our bodies and free ourselves from pain so we have the freedom to be fascial yoga astronauts.

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Assistant Editor: Michelle Margaret / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: PureBlackLove/Flickr

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