Fascinated By Fascia

What is it? I sat down with a world-class yogi and fascia guru to find out.

While “fascia” is a topic frequently tossed around in sports arenas and on massage tables, it’s only recently made its way into the yoga world. I had the pleasure of sitting down with world-class yogi and fascia guru, Charles Maclnerney, to chat about the fascinating world of fascia and how it affects our bodies, brains, and beyond.

Let’s start with the basics: What is fascia?

At its most basic definition: Fascia is connective tissue. It’s kind of like a pomegranate—your skin is the outer shell, while your organs, muscles, and bones are the juicy seeds—all the white parts and pockets are fascia.

What does healthy fascia look like?

Healthy fascia is well hydrated and has a gel-like consistency. Its fluid state allows it to move and glide without resistance.

So what does unhealthy fascia look like?

Unhealthy fascia is tight; it’s hardened and crystallized. And when the fascia tightens down, fluid can’t move through it. Have you ever noticed how when you wake up in the morning, you’re quite stiff? That’s because little adhesions have built up on your fascia overnight.

Would you say fascia is malleable?

Yes—fascia is a shape-shifter. It is constantly reworking itself. They say you can tell what someone does for a living by their fascia, because the fascia will reshape itself to support a person’s habits.

What does fascia like?

Fascia likes variety, so the greater the variety the better. And there are a lot of different ways to create that variety. An easy way is temporally. So, for instance, if you are lifting weights, you can do the exact same set with the exact same weight, lifting faster one day and slower another. This gives you a completely different workout. And the fascia loves that you’re changing things.

So what does fascia not like?

Fascia hates repetition—like the keyboard, this is where you see carpal tunnel and such. So highly repetitive movements are the absolute worst things you can do for fascia. It causes the fascia to grip and start laying down supporting cables to help the muscles. And even a sport can be highly repetitive. So the trick is changing it up—like lifting at different speeds per my prior suggestion or choosing a new activity to try.

And how does bad posture impact fascia?

There’s a saying by Thomas Myers that movement becomes habit, habit becomes posture, posture becomes structure. So when you have bad posture that causes a muscle to hold for a long period of time, the body starts laying down fascia, like metal cables, to take the load off the muscles. And what started as a movement quickly becomes a habit, which then becomes your posture, which eventually becomes a structure. And by the time it’s structure, there’s not much you can do.

How do things like stress or trauma affect fascia?

Fascia responds dynamically to stress, and it can change to be more crystalline and rigid or it can change to be more fluid and gel-like. And it happens surprisingly quickly. So when you are relaxed, it turns into more of a gel and you become more flexible and when you’re stressed or under fear or trauma, it tightens up under pressure to protect you.

Can fascia recover from the impact of chronic stress or bad posture?

Well the sooner you catch it, the more freedom you have. At the level of movement, it’s very easy to correct. Habits are a little tougher. And posture is a pain. To get someone to change their posture, they’re going to have to work really, really hard to correct it. But if they don’t, then they will move into structural problems. Bones reshape and their whole body will reshape to support that new posture—and at that point posture is actually becoming a structural problem, not muscular.

So how should we combat this?

There’s a theory that fascia starts to change if you hold any position for 17 minutes or longer. So you can have bad posture for 15 minutes as long as you take a break, get up and stretch it out. But if you go for 20 minutes, your body starts laying down fascia to support the muscles. So one of the easiest ways to help yourself is to get a little timer and set it on your desk and when the timer goes off every 15 minutes, stop for a second, lift your arms up, roll out your shoulders, and then slip right back into what you were doing. Gradually, your body will start to think, oh that feels so good, and you won’t need the alarm anymore.

What’s the latest fascia discovery or theory?

They are finding now that the fascia is highly integrated with the nerves. No one realized this before. They just thought it was connective tissue and they never really took a closer look at it. But now they believe that fascia runs through the nerves, as well as the muscles. It’s everywhere. And they believe there is a higher density of nerves and nerve receptors in the fascia than there are in the retina. So this means your entire body is conscious and taking in information and processing it. And that’s led to a theory that the feedback from the fascial system is the key to balance. So practicing balance with the eyes closed can really help increase our consciousness of the whole body and the dialogue between fascia and the nerves.

What is the one thing you want readers to remember about fascia?

Fascia is fluid. Hydrate it and it will be happy.

Want to find out more about how to make your fascia happy? Check out the second part of my interview with Charles in Treat Your Fascia Right.

Charles MaclnerneyCharles Maclnerney is an E-RYT-500-hour certified yoga instructor living and teaching in Austin, Texas. He began practicing yoga at 11 years old and has spent the last 44 years dedicated to the practice. He teaches a fascia workshop and is a co-founder of the Living Yoga Teacher Training Program. For information about the variety of yoga retreats that Charles offers throughout the year, please visit his website: www.yogateacher.com or email him.



sized-Laci-MosierLaci Mosier is a copywriter living and loving in Austin, Texas. She and her one-eyed pirate dog live for exploring and discovering life’s magic. She is most inspired by yoga, running, Kundalini meditation, good books, great jams and even better coffee. Getting lost is where she is most often found. Follow her on the Twittersphere or Instagram.