The interest in all things fascia-related has grown dramatically in recent years. The name most often associated with this relatively new area of study is Ida Rolf (inventor of ‘Rolfing’) and the work has been continued by many of her students, including Tom Myers who came up the Anatomy Trains. As a bodyworker, looking to ease tension and increase flexibility, I need to be working with fascia as well as muscles if I want to make a real difference for my clients.
What is fascia?
Fascia a thin layer of webbing that lies under the skin and between muscles and organs. It’s like a stocking that encloses your entire body and separates the structures within it.
Fascia is part of the ‘fascial system’…
The above definition of fascia is the more commonplace version. But according to Tom’s teaching, this is just one part of a whole network of connective tissue that runs throughout our body that he calls ‘the fascial system’. This includes ligaments, tendons, periosteum (membrane around the bones), connective tissues in the skin (collagen) and even adipose tissue (fat).
What does the fascial system do?
The simple answer is everything to do with form and movement. According to Tom, your fascial system is:
your organ of form,
a single, continuous, interconnected web,
a strain distribution system that communicates through your entire body
has viscous, elastic properties (recoil) and plastic properties and is constantly remodelling,
accommodates and holds your patterns/compensations,
AND is the richest sense organ in your body-
Tom Myers – Anatomy Trains in Structure & Function
From this list, you can see why this tissue is of great interest to bodyworkers. Awareness of how it behaves and understanding how to work with it is essential for an effective treatment. And with its combination of stretch and pressure, Thai Yoga Massage is very effective at working with fascia.
It was the elastic properties of fascia allowed Evel Knieval (you had to be young in the 70’s to know who he was) to walk out of the stadium after this accident:
We talked a little bit about facia during my training and we learned to feel the layers as we developed our palpation skills. But I knew I wanted to learn a whole lot more about this field, understanding that tense muscles, chronically contracted or lengthened muscles and trigger points aren’t the only stories we need to attend to when looking for the source and resolution of our clients’ stiffness, limitation and pain.