When people discuss the musculoskeletal benefits of yoga, they usually refer to the impact it has on our strength and flexibility as well as our muscles and bones. But have you ever learned anything about how it effects our fascia as well? Have you ever even heard of fascia? It is not talked about much but the role of fascia in our body and in movement cannot be overstated. There are many benefits of healthy fascia.
Fascia is like saran wrap. It’s a structure of connective tissue that surrounds individual muscles as well as groups of muscles, bones, blood vessels and nerves. Fascai binds some structures together while allowing others to slide smoothly over each other. It stores elastic energy, allows movement to be dynamic and is one of the richest sensory organs in the body.
Benefits of Healthy Fascia
When we think of healthy fascia, we think of the following characteristics:
- Firm and elastic at the same time
- Flexible like bamboo
- Has the tensile strength of rope
- Allows us to make springing movements like a gazelle
The more we learn about fascia, the more we can see that it also serves as an auto-regulatory system. However it is not recognized as one like the nervous system and the circulatory system are. Tissue tone and tissue health help to regulate the body, right down to the level of gene expression!
When we practice yoga, we move intentionally in all 3 planes – sagittal, frontal and transverse which helps to release fascial lines throughout the body.
Signs of Healthy Fascia
The benefits of healthy fascia are clear, from the way our bodies move when exercising to how we go about our daily lives. Some of those healthy fascia benefits include:
- Quality breathing – It allows for the diaphragm to do its main job and that is to help us breathe! Our diaphragm attaches to the ribcage so when the ribs can move freely, the diaphragm allows us to breathe well. If the ribs don’t move freely, the diaphragm is unable to be the boss, so our smaller and weaker accessory breathing muscles in the neck and low back take over – resulting in shallow breathing and when we breathe primarily with these muscles overtime it can result in the ever so common neck and back pain.
- Efficient muscles – Healthy fascia works in harmony with the muscles and signals to them when to engage and when to relax.
- Healthy joints and movement – It keeps joints from compressing and wearing out so our spine, arms and legs can move well in various ways.
- Greater awareness, balance and stability – It gives us perception of posture and movement affecting proprioception and coordination
- Relieves pain – It allows tissues to glide smoothly beneath the skin, around vessels and nerves, alleviating pain.
And just like muscles, fascial tissue degenerates if it doesn’t move and move often. So the next time you are on your mat, find gratitude for yet another amazing benefit of your practice.
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