Fascia. The word of the moment in the world of body work. Whether it be injury prevention, fitness training, injury treatment, postural correction or chronic pain it is almost a certainty these days that someone has discussed Fascia or Connective tissue with you. A substance once cut out and thrown away in cadaver, has now had the tables turned with dissection now becoming more focused on this one time garbage and how it connects together to form functional lines within our body.
Although science is catching up with the importance of this tissue that amongst a myriad of functions provides us with a vital, high speed communication route within our neural network, its importance in creating postural integrity and a pain free existence has been around for a very long time – think Yoga for example! In more ‘recent’ times and in terms of body work, I look to the work of Ida Rolf for breaking ground in this area at a time when science and her peers may have simply written off her beliefs.
Born in 1896 in New York she started her career as a biochemist achieving her PHD in 1926. Leaving her research in this area behind she moved to Switzerland where she studied mathematics and atomic physics. It was around this time in the 1930’s that her own ailments and those of people close to her drove her to also study a number of alternative therapies to help in alleviating the symptoms that seemed to be resistant to modern medicine at the time. An extremely intelligent and gifted academic she studied many therapies including Homeopathy, Osteopathy, Yoga and the Alexander Technique. Clearly a woman of science, yet what I believe made her great was also an appreciation for what she anecdotally found through treatments she performed and the results she achieved. This led to her core belief that ‘When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then spontaneously, the body heals itself’.
We all know now how postural imbalance wrecks havoc with our bodies, we also now know how simple deviations from posture changes the loads that are put through each joint e.g. “For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” -Kapandji, Physiology of Joints. If our goal becomes aligning a body against gravity returning us to our evolutionary best, do these extraneous pressures, vectors and forces simply disappear? In these elements disappearing do our aches, pains and potentially even our illnesses simply disappear?
It sounds simple in principle but with hundreds of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones in the body how do we treat each of these to achieve our most resilient bodies? Dr Ida Rolf proposed the fastest and most effective way to achieve this was actually by releasing, un-sticking and reorganising our connective tissue to create space. Space that allows those hundreds of bones, muscles and ligaments to fall into place and become resilient against gravity and the external pressures we expose ourselves to on a daily basis. This approach would allow us to move better, for energy to flow seamlessly within our bodies, for fluids to ebb and flow without getting stuck, to allow us to stand comfortably and resiliently within our skins against gravity. Structural Integration was born. A series of sessions that work through the most superficial to the deepest levels of your fascia unwinding this connective tissue leaving your with a Resilient body ready to take on the world.
The science may not have been as advanced as Dr Ida Rolfs thinking and practice were at the time but what is for certain and why forms of Structural Integration and Myofascial Release are becoming more widely available is that science IS now catching up. Look to the amazing work by Schleip, Langevin and the Fascia Research Project at Ulm University if you want to get yourself up to speed.
Don’t be left behind – get ‘Fascia’ Fit!
References & Related Links
- Structural Integration: Origins & Development: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3162380/
- Fascia & The Massage Connection: http://www.pamofit.co.uk/2014/05/freeing-fascia-massage-connection.html
- “Strolling Under The Skin” Dr. Jean Claude Guimberteau’s video series
- “What is Fascia? “,Robert Schleip, Heike Ja¨ger, Werner Klingler: http://www.fasciaresearch.de/Schleip2012_FasciaNomenclatures.pdf
- “Fascia Research from a Clinician/Scientist’s Perspective”, Thomas W. Findlay: http://www.ijtmb.org/index.php/ijtmb/article/view/158/192