When was the last time you looked at your body in utter awe? Have you ever pondered the intricacies and pathways of your bodies intelligence as it patiently waits underneath the skin? I invite you to become a personal explorer of the perfection that is you. Let us take the journey of unlocking the secrets of your muscles, cells, and sensory receptors that paint the story of your life. We very much live in a brain centred culture, which has unfortunately at best forgotten, and at worst punished everything that resides below the neckline. Our bodies have become purely a mechanical tool that we only pay attention to when we need something, or if an injury occurs. With the fast paced world that demands constant intellectual stimulation we literally have become “thinking machines”.
What if we shifted this notion and started to grasp the fact that we are more then just our minds, and that the body is a pulsing network of information that is ready to help you heal more than you thought was possible.
Fascia, probably one of the most fascinating components to your physical makeup. First, let us break down what fascia actually is. Underneath your skin you have a connective tissue (fascia) that follows the entire surface. You than have another layer which wraps around all muscles, organs (including the brain, heart, and lungs) and bones. This connective tissue than has other compartments which wrap all of the smaller muscle fibres within these muscles, as well as the nerve pathways that bring the fibres information, and arteries and veins that replenish and clean the entire system. All of this than connects together with this same tissue (fascia) creating an interconnected network throughout your entire being. Visualize all of this as a “saran wrap” like substance. As you can see this “saran wrap” literally begins at the top of your head down to the tip of your toes.
Imagine a sandwich on a table wrapped in saran wrap. What would happen if you squeezed that sandwich? The saran wrap encasing would squish the sandwich, and keep the distorted shape. This distortion would be maintained until you smoothed out the original damage. Even if you tried to fix the sandwich inside of the saran wrap it would be of no benefit because of this outside layer. The same stands true for your body. To further this, that pulling could begin on one side of the sandwich, but this one small pull effects the entire sandwich. Quite the thought when you compare this to your body.
Lets start with a physical injury. I’m sure at some point you have strained a muscle. This muscle strain affects the network of fascia, and now there is pulling starting from the focal point of strain, lets hypothetically say, in your shoulder. Not only is this affecting the shoulder, but this pulling will travel potentially up your neck, and down your back. Over time you may develop headaches, which you will usually self prescribe with tylenol, but really this is masking the symptom, and is of no long term benefit. All that needs to be done is a basic fascial release on the shoulder joint, where the pulling began, thus not only healing muscular strain, but the ripples that went along with it.
I know this seems like a tale of cat and mouse, but bear with me, and hold onto your reading hats. Physical injury is not the only culprit of fascial dysfunction. Lets say, for example, someone calls you stupid. In response to this harsh statement your shoulders round forward, and the muscles in your chest shorten, as you physically cower at the verbal abuse. Imagine over your lifetime this response of rounding the shoulders happens every single time you are called stupid. You are literally protecting your heart. This concept of “being stupid” is sitting locked inside this fascial blockage. Now imagine what would happen if you released this. Lets say you come to see me for a massage. As I unlock this tension over a series of sessions all of that emotional memory rises up, and can be released from your unconscious. It is not only the mind that is effected, but the body is quite literally a roadmap of your emotional memories.
This is just one emotion, for one experience, in one part of your body. So the older you are, and the more life experience you have, your bodies intelligence is potentially full of hidden emotional blockages. These blockages can then be connected to chronic long term dysfunction or illness. You are literally causing physical detriment through body awareness ignorance.
For example, as a yoga instructor I am quite mindful of working through the krama’s (stages) of asanas (postures), especially with my students. Although for some reason I avoid the beginning stages of backbends. In my own yoga practice I always try to rush through warming the spine up around the mid back area between my shoulder blades. I find I am short of breath, my muscles cramp, and it is where I chronically hold pain. When I stay in these positions I get anxious, uncomfortable, and rush into the next level where I can explore the lower parts of my spine. Before I sat down to take the journey of writing this blog I decided to do quite an extensive self practice, and for some reason I chose to focus entirely on backbends. I made a goal for today that instead of focusing on how I was physically performing, I instead would tap into how I was feeling sensorily. As my breath work set in, and I began to melt into the meditative calm that asana practice brings me the dreaded emotional response of back bending began to rear its ugly head. I had an intense desire to just stop my practice and get off my mat. I took a deep courageous breath in, and instead I decided to stay here ,and look at what was really going on. I realized that locked inside the space between my shoulder blades was years of embarrassment and shame. All of the things that I would prefer (and have successfully avoid mentally) not to look at were literally sitting right there inside of my fascia. My highly crafty body had deeply protected by heart, by creating a beautiful network of knots along the muscles of my spine. I paused, and internally said ,“Krista, you can do what you always do, and rush through this moment, or take a deep a breath, and you can feel this.” So, in this deep breath I felt a rush of energy go through my spine, and my back released. I continued with my practice, and when I was lying in Savasana I honestly felt better today then I have in the last ten years of my yoga journey, for the matter in my daily life.
It was a huge moment, and I hope you can appreciate the profoundness of how you can literally unravel, and deeply heal yourself on all levels. All that is needed is simply taking the time to pay attention to the messages that your body is sending you on a daily basis. Once you find that tension you than actively work to release muscular strain whether that be through yoga, massage, a mobility class, or whatever resonates with you.
In conclusion our body is not a work mule for our minds. It possesses the knowledge to keep you youthful, and not only physically well, but mentally, and emotionally balanced. So be brave, be passionate, and take the plunge into your fascial network of knowledge!