Fascia: The Flexibility Factor You’re Probably Missing on the Mat

We can't blame you if you've never given your fascia a second (or first) thought. Senior Yoga Medicine teacher Allison Candelaria explains why you will want to start now though.

What is fascia?

From your big toe mound to your Crown Chakra, there’s a lot to think about on the mat. So we can’t blame you if you’ve never given your fascia a second (or first) thought. Senior Yoga Medicine teacher Allison Candelaria explains why you will want to start now though.

Fortunately, whether we’re aware of it or not, every time we step onto our yoga mats, our fascial system benefits. Fascia, which means “band” or “bundle” in Latin, surrounds, connects and supports our muscles, organs, bones, tendons, ligaments and other structures of the body. Similar to the membrane around each section of an orange, fascia both separates and connects body parts at the same time. Containing nerves, these tissues also serve as a layer of protection and body awareness.

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oranges, fruit, fascia

Why Fascia Requires Special Attention

While moving through yoga poses begins to hydrate and free the superficial layers of the fascia, it’s often not enough to undo the deeper damage done the other 23 or so hours of our day. Many factors in our daily life, including poor postural habits, stress-induced muscular tension, limited movement, injury and dehydration, can cause velcro-like adhesions to form within the fascia sticking muscles together and restricting their ability to perform their individual functions. Forced to move and work as a team, the muscles become less efficient.

The deeper layers of the tissue, where adhesions and scar tissue are common, can be stubborn, requiring more than your typical vinyasa flow to affect change. Healthy fascia relies on movement and hydration, so any targeted technique used to manipulate the muscles (myo) and surrounding tissues (fascia) can be helpful. Massage, rolfing, foam rolling and myofascial release are some of the most common ways to target this system of tissues. By using pinpointed release techniques in our practice, we can help jumpstart the fascial repair and remodeling process to free up the tissues and increase their range of motion both during and after our practice.

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The Benefits of Myofascial Release for Fascia

Releasing fascial adhesions is like clearing out the cobwebs between the muscles, allowing them to slide and glide more efficiently, which increases hydration and elimination of toxins. Freeing up the muscles in this way allows them to begin function independently, contracting and releasing to their fullest potential.

Myofascial release also increases range of motion and reduces pain and recovery time. Plus, since our fascia is rich with nerves, clearing up these tissues creates a direct pathway for nerve signals to flow to the brain, which aids body awareness (proprioception), coordination, and our ability to control our movements. All of that makes this work perfect preparation for a yoga practice dedicated to retraining the muscles to fire properly and perform their intended jobs. Myofascial release can be effective anytime—before, after, or during your regular practice.

If you’re ready to try it, start with Candelaria’s yoga sequence integrating myofascial release techniques to prepare the body for movement: Free Your Back Body Like Never Before: A Flow for Your Fascia

Allison Candelaria is a senior Yoga Medicine teacher and the owner of Soul Yoga studio in Oklahoma City, where she resides with her husband and two children. For Allison yoga was a perfect transition from her previous dancing career and complement to her professional work in the nonprofit sector. Her vinyasa flow classes are anatomically informed by years of study and uniquely incorporate myofascial release techniques to balance the mind, body and breath. She is currently working on her 1000-hour certification with Yoga Medicine, where she has also had the privilege to be personally mentored by Tiffany Cruikshank herself. You can find Allison leading 200-hour trainings with Yoga Medicine around the world and teaching workshops, classes and privates in the midwest. Learn more on allisoncandelaria.com and soulyogaokc.com.