A few weeks ago, I co-led a workshop on Fascia Release at LYFE Yoga with my partner, Christine. This being the first time we’ve offered a workshop on this topic at the studio, we had such a great response with advance registration that we opened a wait list and received inquiries from students about future workshops.
We were excited by the level of interest around fascia and health. The role of fascia and a sense of well being has been receiving plenty of attention in the fields of medicine and yoga, and justifiably so. Fascia is connective tissue that traverses our entire body and supports our physical mobility as well as our nervous system, lymphatic and vascular health. It can hold tension and toxins, transmit pain, and contribute to a sense of tiredness when it becomes restricted due to inactivity, illness, injury, stress, repetitive motion or other trauma. Some of us have experience with various approaches to working with fascia: the targeted pressure of foam rollers and balls against tight muscles and fascia; using active movement to reintroduce elasticity to fascia; and yoga poses held for longer durations to stretch or relax fascia. Most of the yoga classes we take, regardless of tradition or style, stimulate or release fascia as we work though, or submit to, the effects of asana or pranayama.
The approach that Christine and I shared during the workshop leaned further into other limbs of yoga: pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation). It reflects an integration of the yoga practice I teach, of bringing one’s attention inward, training our ability to observe our physical and subtle body, with Osteopathic principles core to Christine’s medical practice: that we are Nature, we have an innate ability to heal, and that by connecting to that Nature within us, the very act of listening, allowing the body to reveal itself, is healing.
With so many possible ways to explore the integration of yoga and osteopathy, we chose to introduce this approach to fascia release through self touch. If you have ever given yourself a hug, or placed a hand over your heart to acknowledge pain or joy, you might have a sense of what we worked on. In classical yogic terms, we practiced using our hands and fingers not as the organs of action (karma-indriya), which most of us are accustomed to in our daily lives, but rather as organs of sensing (jnana-indriya), to observe and bring to our awareness the qualities of the object being touched – in this case, our physical body to begin with – and at the same time connecting with the sensation of our own touch. As we continue expanding our scope of awareness and training our sense of perception, we can connect to the subtle body sensations – physical, mental, emotional and energetic.
For many of us who have experienced trauma, this subtle body connection can be particularly challenging. Can we meet harshness with gentleness? Pain with love? Criticism with kindness? With a slow and gentle approach, we invite the subtle body to reveal itself when it is ready so that we regain a sense of agency from within: self empowerment without force or the illusion of control of the subtle body.
With practice, self touch and the ability to observe without judging the physical, mental and emotional sensations that arise can create an internal expansiveness that supports healing. This fluency in listening and connecting via self touch is less about “doing,” without forceful effort or the desire to “fix”, moving into ease instead of directly against tightness or restriction. Think of swimming with a rip tide: rather than battling the current pulling you out head on, you might swim parallel to the shore, looking for openings, opportunities to ease in toward safety. Another metaphor we used is surfing a powerful wave, the wave being the quantum totality of our body’s physiologic processes happening in every moment. Riding the wave, we discover sensations and the opportunity for the physical, mental, emotional and energetic body to connect. Through that open, accepting connection, the body is free to express and release tensions and strains.
There is so much more to explore with self touch and fascia. For example we can consider how we might practice self touch in specific asana that facilitate that connection and internal expansiveness. We might observe how pranayama can assist or broaden that connection. We can focus specifically on the role of fascia in joint stability and flexibility, or its role in our immune system or our nervous system, or even apply these techniques to access visceral-somatic, somatic-visceral and somatic-emotional release.
Fascia release can be a strictly physical endeavor, and we can benefit greatly from targeted, physical methods. At the same time, it can be enhanced and deepened when we connect to our subtle body and recognize the power of Nature and healing that resides within every one of us.
Hia teaches weekly yoga classes on Wednesday and Friday mornings at LYFE Yoga and offers individual instruction. Christine provides individual medical Osteopathic treatment by appointment – christineosteopath.com.
This post was written by Hia Phua