This is an interesting (and quick) video with Bo Forbes on the Yoga International website touching on some of the latest findings about how fascia works.
If you haven’t run across Bo Forbes before, she is a clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and integrative yoga therapist whose background includes training in biopsychology, behavioral medicine, sleep disorders, and stress management. She is definitely someone to have on your radar if you are interested in integrating scientific/medical knowledge, as well as mindfulness meditation, with yoga.
A few of the most intriguing statements are these: “Much of the injury we think is muscular really comes from overstretching fascia that’s not hydrated.”
“The work that’s now integrating into the yoga systems and bodywork is really looking at how do we teach people to work with their own connective tissue matrix in a way that’s not just sort of diving in to loosen things up, but in a way that really listens to a very, very visceral and subtle dialogue between the connective tissue and the nervous system and works in a way that the work can be integrated.”
We Yin Yoga practitioners love to geek out about fascia and talk about how our practice targets and benefits the connective tissues in particular. So, it’s important that we stay up-to-date on the incredible amount of research that’s coming out about our internal interwebs, our amazing matrix, our fascinating fascia.
Here are a few tips for incorporating this knowledge into your Yin Yoga practice:
Movement tends to hydrate the tissues more than long-held poses, which is why I like to include a few minutes of gentle one-breath-one-movement poses before diving into the meditative Yin practice. This is not so much to generate heat (warm up), but to hydrate the fascia and help establish embodied awareness, which most people connect with more easily in movement than in stillness.
Increasingly, I’ve been exploring how self-massage complements yoga (both Yin and “Yang” forms). This is another way to hydrate the fascia and release places where the web is holding on too tightly. I know this is not a scientific way to describe it, but experientially, when you feel a tender spot or a knot let go in massage, a feeling of greater freedom and integration comes along with it. I sense less of a harsh pull around those spots when I stretch them after working with massage balls. Those spots feel like they’re ready to play nice with the surrounding tissues. And, like movement, massage is an excellent way to heighten awareness of sensation in the body so that we go into our postural practice mindfully plugged in. The Yoga Tune Up therapy balls are great for this, and by the way, I am loving Jill Miller’s new book, The Roll Model, which also includes a section on fascia anatomy.
Also, as Bo mentions, props like blocks, blankets, and bolsters help provide some stability in the pose, which signals the nervous system that it’s OK to relax, thus avoiding a “backlash” of resistance in the tissues. The more we learn about how fascia works, the more we understand the huge role that the nervous system plays. The bottom line when it comes to stretching is: less is more! Dial back that intensity. Use prop support when you need it. Enjoy your practice, but don’t overstretch. Gradual, gentle change is more Yin-like anyway.
Important food for thought for Yin Yogis…enjoy!