All About Fascia and What You Need to Know About it
“If you’re feeling discomfort, that’s the fabric breaking up your fascia!” This is something aerial yoga instructors say often, but you may be wondering, “what is fascia?” and “do I want to break it up?”. Yes you do! This article will explain why.
There are four types of tissue in our body: muscle, nervous, epithelial, and connective. Fascia is a connective tissue. It exists throughout the entire body and it helps to support your muscles, bones, and organs. Fascia has been described as being similar to a spider web or like the white part of the orange after you remove the peel.
Fascia is made up of three components. The first is collagen which is a type of protein. Collagen fibers are long, strong, and can support ten thousand times its own weight. Collagen provides structure and support which keeps our muscles and bones in place. The second component of fascia is elastin. Elastin allows the tissue to stretch (like when we do yoga poses) and it absorbs shock (from running, jumping, etc.). The final component of fascia is ground substance. This substance allows muscle fibers to slide over one another with ease. An interesting fact about ground substance is that it changes from gel to liquid when pressure is applied. This process is called thixotropy.
Finally, there are different types of fascia. Superficial fascia which exists close to the skin, deep fascia which exists around muscles and bones, and visceral fascia which is around our organs.
How Do We Keep Fascia Healthy?
Fascia needs to be cared for just like our muscles and bones do. Otherwise it can become distorted making us more susceptible to various medical issues like chronic pain after injury, plantar fasciitis, and IT Band Syndrome. Thirsty fascia will pull itself together very tightly and cause puckering in the skin (cellulite). Fortunately there are a couple of different ways to keep our fascia healthy.
1. Staying Hydrated. Fascia needs hydration to be in an optimal state. Just like a car engine needs oil to work properly, our fascia needs water. An engine without oil will freeze up and stop working. The same thing happens to our body and our fascia when we aren’t properly hydrated. Water ensures our fasciastays well-lubricated and malleable which makes movement easier overall.
With that being said, drinking more water won’t necessarily solve all of our issues. As mentioned earlier, fascia is like an intricate spider web and it has many valleys, nooks, and hidden pathways. In order to hydrate these hard-to-reach areas, we need to work into our soft tissue and make the pathways more accessible. There are many ways to work into our soft tissue, including massage, use of a roller ball, and aerial yoga. In aerial yoga, the fabric works on our soft tissue through compression and release, ultimately opening up fascia in the part of the body we are working on.
2. Movement. Our fascia will also freeze if we don’t move around. Sitting at a desk all day, poor posture, and tension from chronic stress all result in our fascia becoming hard and immobile. We can combat these effects with movement. One way to implement more movement into your day is by rolling around in bed before you get up in the morning. Stretch out and wiggle around before you get your cup of coffee to keep your elastin (a component of fascia) healthy and happy.
Another component of fascia, collagen, is very strong and made to withstand pressure. Because of this, a quick stretch won’t change much. We can work into these strong fibers by holding gentle stretches for longer periods of time (3-5 minutes). This is why Restorative and Yin yoga is so beneficial for the body. As we hold poses for a minute or longer, the tissue begins to release.
Atherial Fitness offers unique Restorative and Yin Yoga classes which work to keep fascia healthy. During these classes, you’ll hold postures for longer periods of time which helps to release tight collagen (a component of fascia). Plus the fabric is a great tool for self-massage. As your body weight is transferred to the fabric, you’ll work into your soft tissue, break up those hard-to-reach pathways, and give your body the space to hydrate more efficiently.
About the author: Jen Callahan is a Denver-based yoga instructor. She teaches aerial yoga and aerial restore classes at Atherial and also serves as the Community Marketing Manager for the studio. Connect with her on Instagram at @jendoesaerial.