The secret to maintaining flexibility and mobility for life
Have you ever noticed how cats stretch when they wake up or change position? They are not just stretching their muscles, they are stretching their fasciae. Maybe that’s the real secret to having nine lives.
What Is Fascia?
Fascia is fibrous connective tissue, mostly comprised of collagen, that surrounds your bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, and blood vessels. Everything that separates and gives shape to the body and muscles is fascia. There are three main types of fascia:
The superficial fascia layer lies under the skin and can be elastic and rigid at the same time. It remains tight, even when you gain and lose weight.
The deep fascia that wraps around muscles, nerves, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and organs is called myofascia. The deep fascia on bones is called periosteum. Its structure and elasticity depend on tasks and location, and it is less elastic than the superficial variety. This makes it less adaptable to change and slower to heal.
Visceral fascia surrounds all the organs, holding them in place.
Fascia and Overall Health
When fascia is healthy, it is flexible and supple. It ensures smooth movement between bones and muscles, stabilizes the shape of your body, and holds your internal organs in place. Because fasciae connect with each other, they help your body repair from injuries quickly. They also have many neural connections that send messages to the brain regarding movement, posture, balance, and muscular tension. When fascia is functioning well, it impacts the lymphatic system’s efficiency, and vice versa.
However, when fascia becomes unhealthy—as a result of injury, lack of exercise, constant stress in the body, insufficient hydration, or poor nutrition—it can cause reduction in mobility, back and joint pain, muscle pain, stiffness, and a loss of flexibility and range of motion. In some cases, it can also lead to poor posture, loss of balance, reduced muscle strength, increased vulnerability to injury, sleep deprivation, and a depressed immune system.
Fascia Fitness Exercises
Keeping your fascia healthy requires regular exercise (minimum three to four days per week), stretching, good nutrition, and consistent hydration.
Foam Rolling: Also known as self-myofascial release, a foam roller acts like a deep-tissue massage. It smooths out and hydrates the fascia, oxygenates the blood, improves circulation, and boosts lymphatic drainage throughout the body.
Exercise 1: Thoracic Extension (with foam roller)
- Lying on your back on the floor, place foam roller under your upper back. Interlock your fingers and place them under your head.
- Slowly roll back and forth 10 times, holding for 3 seconds between reps.
Exercise 2: Forward Fold Stretch
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Reach hands behind you, arms straight, fingers interlaced.
- Keeping a flat back, bend at the waist, shifting your hips backward until you feel a stretch down the back of your legs.
- As you bend forward, raise your arms toward the ceiling. Only go as far as is comfortable. Hold for 30 seconds.
Exercise 3: Chest Stretch in Doorway
- Stand in the middle of an open door.
- Place forearms on each side of doorframe, lower arms parallel to your shoulders.
- Gently lean forward into the doorway until you feel a stretch through the front of the chest and shoulders. Only go as far as comfortable.
- Deep breathe as your chest continues to open. Hold position for 30 seconds.