“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 things like “What is fascia” and “Do I want to break it up?”. Yes you do and this post 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 an 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 and strong – they can support ten thousand times their 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 tissues to stretch and it absorbs shock (like from running or jumping). 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 through a process called thixotrophy.
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 Health?
Fascia needs to be cared for just like our muscles and bones, otherwise it can become distorted and make us more susceptible to various medical injuries (chronic pain after injury, plantar fasciitis, and IT Band Syndrome). Thirsty fascia will pull itself together very tightly and cause puckering in the skin (aka cellulite). Fortunately there are a couple of ways to keep our fascia healthy.
- Stay 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 would freeze up and stop working. The same principle applies to our fascia when we aren’t properly hydrated. Water ensures our fascia stays 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 above, fascia is like an intricate web and it has many valleys, nook, 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 into the soft tissue through compression and release, ultimately opening up fascia in the part of the body that’s being worked on.
- 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 hard, immobile fascia. We can combat these effects with movement (ever head the phrase “movement is medicine”?!). One easy way to implement more movement is to roll around in bed before you get up. Stretch out and wiggle around before your coffee to keep your elastin (a component of fascia) healthy and happy. Another component of fascia is collagen, which is very strong and can withstand a great deal of pressure. Because of this, a quick yoga pose won’t change much. We can work into these strong fibers by holding gentle poses for longer periods of time (3-5 minutes). This is why Yin Yoga is so beneficial for the connective tissue and body as a whole.
Atherial Fitness offers unique Restorative and Yin Yoga classes which work to keep fascia healthy. During these classes, you’ll hold postures or shapes for longer periods of time which helps to release tight collagen. Plus the fabric is a great tool for self-massage. As your body weight is transferred into the fabric, you’ll work into the soft tissue, break up those hard-to-reach pathways, and give your body the space needed to hydrate more efficiently.