Traditional Western anatomy likes to break the body into parts. We think of our architecture as bone stacked upon bone, wrapped in various muscles. Yet, take a moment to really watch how a yogi or a dancer twists and floats through space, and you realize that something is missing—fascia.
When we stretch, we tend to visualize stretching our muscles. And while it is possible and important to stretch muscles, it is much more important to stretch the connective tissue encasing the muscles, which is called fascia (pronounced like “Sasha”).
Muscle is essentially contractile jelly that fills tubes of fascia, and as we change the shape of the tubing, the shape of the muscle adapts. Making this happen is as much about intention as mechanics. We must listen acutely for the moment of fascial resistance, then hang out there and honor the capacity of the fabric. If we push too hard, the fabric resists change. We need to melt fascia.
On a molecular level, fascia becomes more liquid when warm and more solid when cooled. We know this from personal experience. When we start moving we feel how the fascia becomes more fluid and our bodies are more accepting of change. And when we cool down the fascia becomes stiffer and less forgiving.
Watch the video below to see fascia respond to stretching under a microscope.
A version of this story appears in Issue One of the Wanderlust Journal magazine.