There has been a lot of buzz lately about fascia and luckily Yoga Tune Up® founder Jill Miller and I are both fascia geeks, or rather “afascianados” (teachers – I invite you to join my facebook group by that name). I’d like to point out some key features of fascia, which has been called the “Cinderella of orthopedic tissue”:

Fascia creates a 3 dimensional, continuous tensional network throughout the entire body.

It is thickened in areas of high stress such as the:

  • bottom of your feet (plantar)
  • connection from your hips to your knees (iliotibial band)
  • continuity from the upper back to the low back (thoracolumbar fascia)

It acts as a functional conduit through muscle chains (see Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers).

It is a force transmitter, distributing tension along pre-determined lines throughout the body.

It is a neurological tranducer with a line to the brain that travels faster than the nervous system.

The focus of today’s blog is on the role of fascia as a force transmitter. Fascia acts as a mechanical strain gauge and helps lighten the load placed on our muscles, tendons and ligaments. This amazing tissue even shifts some of the load to other muscles along the fascial network, up the kinetic chain.

If left alone as in a sedentary lifestyle, or stressed during our daily activities, fascia can become dense and tissues can start to stick together like Velcro. When this occurs, muscles do not glide smoothly over one another, joints tighten and the very important receptor cells residing within fascia that communicate with the brain go into hibernation. In cases where muscles connect into already thicken areas of fascia, such as the feet, outer hips, and low back, a tightening of the fascia leads to inhibition of the local muscles. If the local muscles are inhibited, other accessory muscles, along with tendons and ligaments, will have to bear the entire force burden. It’s like hiking up a mountain and your friend passes out. Now you have to carry all of your own gear, along with your friend and his gear.

As bipedal beings, our feet are our first conduit to the earth, communicating forces via the plantar fascia extending upwards through the superficial back line ( see Anatomy Trains). This interconnected highway travels from the plantar aspect of the foot through the toe flexors, gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles), hamstrings and pelvic ligaments, the erector spinae, all the way to the occipital ridge and epicranial fascia (your forehead). A disruption of any part of this fascial network, beginning with the foot, can create turbulence in our movement patterns, causing pain and dysfunction anywhere and everywhere up the kinetic chain.

Additionally, it is impossible to strengthen a muscle that your nervous system isn’t using. For example, a computer can be a powerful tool, but if you can’t turn it on, you can use it. Consider the foot as the power button and the fascial network as the components that distribute the energy. For a lot of people, the power button of the foot, meaning the intrinsic foot muscles, isn’t functioning. Do you know what’s on the bottom of your foot? A thick band of fascia! By rolling out the bottom of your feet with your Yoga Tune Up® Therapy balls, you not only break apart the Velcro, but you also stimulate the cells in the fascia to start talking to the brain. You can finally turn on the computer! Once your brain is talking to your feet again, start mobilizing them by performing the YTU pose Barbie foot (shown in the second half of the video clip below and available on the Quickfix Feet and Ankle videos).

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