What is fascia?
Fascia is connective tissue and so much more. Your entire body is made of it. It is not only what connects each cell to another, it is the material cells are made of. Imagine a Lego building. Each piece connects to another, but each piece has its own properties like color, shape, size etc. Your muscles, bones, organs, blood vessels etc. are all made of the same material, and connected by the same material, while each have different densities and functions. One of the main characteristics of fascia is it contracts when exposed to stress whether mental, physical and/or emotional. When fascia contracts, it pulls the slack out of your system, from anywhere in the body that is available, to converge on a point of vulnerability (wherever the body has been stressed). This is what creates a fascial restriction. The tissue thickens and hardens around an injury in order to give your body time to heal. Once healed, fascia forms scar tissue (fascial restriction) which restricts movement and causes pain. If not addressed, fascial restrictions cause additional pain in other areas of the body. Fascia can also communicate and act faster than our nerves can detect sensation. This is evident when we are in a crisis or in fight or flight mode. Arguably many of us live in this mode due to the amount of stress our body perceives as fatal.
What is stress?
Stress is when you prevent your body from completing a naturally occurring function or process. Physical, emotional and/or mental stress affects your body equally. Physical traumas prevent the body from functioning normally, as well as creating tension in areas the body feels vulnerable. When your body does not get the movement, nutrition/hydration and rest it needs, it will malfunction. Additionally, tensing up instead of shivering when cold, car/sport/work accidents, physical abuse, inactivity are examples of physical stress. Emotions are felt in the body not the mind. When you suppress/repress your emotions, you create tension in your body due to physically restraining yourself from expression. Many times, this creates harmful postural habits and chronic pain due to daily emotional stress. Clenching your jaw instead of yelling, standing still when you want to dance upon hearing a good beat, staying in a scary situation instead of running away or screaming etc. Mental stress occurs when your body and mind are at odds. Your body is telling you what it needs to be healthy and the mind, dictated by cultural and societal norms, ignores the body’s needs in order to complete tasks to which we give more importance.
What is the technique?
The technique involves sustained pressure or traction, to fascially restricted areas, meeting the body at the tension point. Too much pressure or traction can cause more tissue damage and too light of a touch may not be enough. Myofascial Release is about supporting the body and what it needs to feel safe. Fascial restrictions can apply up to 2000 lbs of pressure per square inch of tissue due to stress. It requires a lot of energy told hold the fascia so tightly. This is why many of us feel tired when we are under stress. Your body is using all its energy to fascially restrict vulnerable areas leaving little to no energy for anything else. After 3 to 5 minutes of sustaining pressure or traction at the tension point, the body registers the support of the technique and responds by discharging some of the energy it was using to hold the tension. Sufficiently supported, the body will react by relaxing because it no longer has to hold the tension by itself. Once the body feels safe enough to relax, it will remain so because the pain and tension are gone. The body will realize it actually feels good to let go and will want to remain relaxed permanently.