Have you ever heard of the myofascial? The Fascia? Connective Tissue?
What is it? What does Myofascial Release mean exactly?
The fact is the body is made up of connective tissue, it is all connective, the blood, bone, organs, fluids, and membranes. We are going to address specifically the connective tissue of the Myofascia, or Fascia system, also known as the newest named and largest organ of the body, the Interstitium.
Ida Rolf may be one of the most well-known and one of the first to study in depth, and work with the myofascia. Dr. Rolf studied in depth in many areas including hatha yoga, biochemistry, homeopathy, and osteopathy. She studied with Osteopaths such as Dr. Sutherland, the founder of cranial osteopathy, and others. She saw the myofascia system as “the organ of form” a key to the bodies alignment, posture, and function.
So, what is it anyway – the myofascia?
This system is an endless web of dynamic fluid filled channels made up of collagen and elastin that line the body, connect and protect the tissues, and give the body its shape, or form. Without the myofascia our muscles would sag off of our bones, The more we work with it, and now study it, the more we believe it is a system of communication as well as a method to aid the body in healing itself.
When an injury occurs, minor or major, the fascia tightens up around the area putting up a protective barrier while the muscle, blood vessels, and other tissues repair and regenerate themselves through the body’s natural self-healing method of acute inflammation. All being well, the fascia will unwind and soften again when the repair is finished. Think of it as a construction curtain in the city while a building is repaired or renovated.
Sometimes, for various reasons, the repair and regeneration project of the body gets stopped or sidetracked. This could be due to lack of proper resting time, over use, stress, or another area of the body that requires more attention like an illness for example. The Fascia will stay compressed, to protect the area until it can get to repairing it.
When the body is unable to get back to the repair in a timely fashion, or has other injuries it sustains without repair, one ends up in a bind, literally. The endless web of fascia is connected to everything, and while it is stretchy and dynamic, when one big area, or several small areas stay tightened, compressed, and static, there is a consequence for the entire organism.
Some may experience chronic joint or muscle pain, fatigue, headaches, PMS, indigestion, and any number of strange symptoms, One may find themselves suffering while searching for relief from various specialists and get labeled with any number of syndromes before anyone looks at or begins to treat the myofascial system. Why that is, remains beyond the scope of this article
When the myofascia has an opportunity to unwind, release, open, expand, and allow fluid to flow again, the body can experience relief and the healing process can be completed at last.
What happens as the tissue releases?
Just that, it releases the hold and provides an opening that allows the fluid to flow and the dynamic connective tissue to move in harmony without restricting the muscles, joints, and organs. One does not have to be a scientist or doctor to realize the benefits of moving without restriction.
Additional benefits may occur with the release of bound fascia and restricted tissues. Many experience the release of emotions, trapped traumas from injuries and accidents, or life situations, relief from symptoms of muscle and or joint pain, fatigue, irritable bowels, asthma, and allergies, PMS, insomnia, anxiety, and depression, to name a few.
When the endless web of connective tissue is free from ties and binds, the body may enjoy harmony within and between all of it’s systems. As it was designed to do.
Remember when you were 8, or perhaps 20, how your body felt? You can feel like that at any age with a harmoniously functioning and freely moving body.
So how does one know if they need myofascial release and where to get it if so?
Just about everyone who has ever fallen or had a big bump can benefit from myofascial release work. And if you really need it you are likely resonating with some of the previous words already. There are a good number of options available since Ida Rolf first started her work in the 1940s and began teaching Structural Integration or Rolfing Technique in the 70’s. A number of other practitioners have followed and expanded her work branching off and creating other forms of myofascial release. Some are deep tissue work, with specific movements, and manipulations like the original Rolfing methods, and others are more subtle and soft touch, that follow the body through its own unique unwinding.
There are even some forms of myofascial release that are designed for one to do themselves through movement, and or use of props, all of which, do mobilize the fascia. Some, may work better than others for you. Which one, or perhaps more than one is best for you, is your choice and may be dependent on what is available to you in your area. Below, I will name a few of the methods I am aware of. This is an incomplete list, as more manual therapy practitioners are developing new ways to mobilize the myofascia all the time!
Traditionally deeper, and sometimes experienced as painful are methods like Rolfing or Structural Integration, and Bowen Method.
Then there are the gentler and even extremely subtle methods like Lotus Touch, Barnes Method of Myofascial Release, Fluid Touch Method, and manual therapies like muscle energy, positional release therapy, distal mobilization, and visceral manipulation.
Self-mobilization of the myofascia can be achieved through several movement forms, including ecstatic and other forms of dance, tai chi, chi gong, Nia yoga, regenerative yoga, restorative yoga, traditional tantra yoga, (all forms or derivatives of hatha yoga), Feldenkrais and Alexander movement techniques to name a few.
Of course, all forms of cardiovascular exercise will also get the fascia moving, and let you know where it may need a little help unwinding. It is a great idea to get your body and fascia moving and keep it moving!
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Sarita Wilson is a Manual Physiotherapist at Lotus Center.
She is the developer of Lotus Touch, a soft touch modality that mobilizes the myofascial system and soft tissues of the body. It is a highly integral approach that works with and through the entire person, organism or entity. One will experience deep relaxation, relief from pain, release of tension held in the body, and may very well experience emotional and traumatic release also.