Our body is made for movement. All our body systems need to stay in motion continuously to keep all our body parts in good state, our organs to function properly & us to feel energetic, able to do everything we like & need to do. If something is not behaving, transmitting, transitioning, moving how it should, we feel it. It affects our wellbeing.
Quite recently has been found that a connective tissue named fascia plays a very important role in our body. It helps us to maintain posture, control body position, and make smooth, coordinated movements (often referred to as the ‘slide and glide’ effect). Practicing Yin Yoga promotes maintaining healthy, hydrated fascia.
Without a practice like yin yoga your deep fascia can become dehydrated, stiff, and less elastic. As this occurs fibers in the deep fascia begin to stick to each other, decrease mobility and increase fatigue and bodily pain. Dehydrated fascia can constrict nerves, blood vessels, muscle fibers and organs, and block nutrient flow to joints and your spine - causing irritation, tension, aches, pains and injuries.
Fascia is a fibrous tissue that ‘connects’ every cell in our body, it´s the great organizer of the body.
Watching the video will help you to get a better idea of how fascia looks & behaves.
“Fascia – or connective tissue, is what glues us together. So, it’s a broad use of the word fascia. What we are really talking about is the body extracellular net that holds us together”. Tom Myers
All the connective tissues found in the body including fascia, tendons, and ligaments, are made up of cells, fibers (collagen and elastin), and a gel-like fluid called ground substance. The ratio of these elements varies depending on the type of tissue and its location in the body. The differences in the fiber/fluid make-up of these tissues match their functions. An achilles tendon is thick and elastic so that it can absorb impact and produce power for running and jumping. But the fascia that wraps around the individual muscles fibers in our thighs is less thick and contains a lot of ground substance to reduce friction. To sustain the robustness of all of our tissues we need to engage in a variety of activities. Healthy loads include the kind of passive, static stretches and compressions of Yin Yoga.
Healthy fascia is springy, flexible and difficult to break. When fascia becomes rigid, inflexible it gets easily damaged, the connective tissue can glue together, become stuck, fragile & hard. That´s when we can get in trouble, physically we can notice it when we feel sore, stiff & get injured easily.
Our fascia is directly affected by our daily habits, our thoughts and our emotions.
Fascia is connected with the neurological system. Within the deep fascia are sensory receptors that detect pain, changes in vibration and pressure, movement and chemistry, as well as a fluctuation in temperature. Based on sensory input, the deep fascia adapts by contracting, relaxing, or shifting its compositional materials. Our posture, the physical activities that we do every day, our environmental factors, but also our thoughts, emotions & brain chemistry affect the condition of our fascia.
What happens if we sit all day long?
So it is not come as a surprise for you to read that if you are constantly sitting at your desk your fascia is not going be happy about that. It is just not enough motion. Besides that if you sit in a posture that is not natural for your body, it´s like learning your body to maintain a new shape that could cause damage to your body systems. It is the same as maintaining negative thought patterns. They also can make you ill over time. Sitting for long periods of time can deform your shoulder area, weaken your back, tighten your hip flexors. All of this can affect you from neck to your toe. Then out of the sudden you made some time to do some sports & out of the sudden your knee starts to hurt.
What happens when we have stressful experiences?
We also know that we unconsciously contract our tissues in response to stress. This is very helpful in the event of a sudden emergency. The body shifts into the ‘fight or flight’ response, which induces strong contractions within the fascia. This gives people strength in the event of an emergency, makes you able to run for your life, or react fast & powerful when in danger. However when we are not able to release contraction from stressful events we develop a constant state of stress in our body.
If we are under stress for an extended period of time, we can “forget” how to relax. That means that our tissues may remain in a constant contractive state even when the stressor is not present anymore (Myers 2012). This also counts for less heavy events then emergencies. For example, if you feel stressed out about something that happened during your day and you don´t take a moment to reflect & release before you continue, the stress reaction can still wander around in your body. A constant state of contraction leads to a thickening, tightening & irritation of the fascia (Langevin et al. 2009). Emotions travel through the fascial system. Fascia may become stiffer and less compliant when we feel depressed, anxious and fearful (Shultz & Feitis, 1996).
How to interact with your fascia?
So far quite some concerning information, but now it is time for the positive side of the story. Our body & mind are also very powerful in healing itself after they got damaged. If we send the right information to our brain & nervous system, the body responds. As we can learn the body to react to stress, we also can learn the body how to relax again. As we learn the body to be in a unhealthy posture, we can learn the body to come back to a healthy posture again. We just need to get more resourceful. We can not avoid to be exposed to stressors in our life but we can choose to take time to reinforce positive patterns that help us release the stress. Recent research material helps us to understand how the body & mind interact with each other, creating a way to develop methods how to realign your fascia.
Yin Yoga & fascia
Motion, circulation is the key to life and longevity. When we practice yoga we move in ways we don´t tend to in daily life. We practice forward bends, backward bends, sideward bends, twists & inversions. We are moving our body in all kind of ways, your fascia loves that. When practicing Yin Yoga we hold deep floor stretches for about three to five minutes to access the deep fascia. After holding a static stretch for 90 seconds you move from superficial tissue into the deep fascia. The deep fascia is made up of collagen, which provides tissue resiliency, strength, and elastin. A regular yin yoga practice enhances that on a deep level you get stronger and more durable through flexibility & mobility (Eliot, 2018).
Our mind interprets tension from our body & our body reacts to our mind. Yin Yoga we practice slow enough to be mindful about what we are doing & how we respond to the practice. It is in that space where we can consciously invite our nervous system into relaxation & rest mode. This helps your body to release contractions build up due to stress. The postures themselves will help you to release tensions form specific areas like shoulders & lower back. If we work with our bodies and if we work on releasing and realigning our fascia, it will have a direct effect on our mind, our behaviour and our emotions.
We can not do always much about the excess sitting & stressors present in our life. But you are not helpless, you can become more skilled to take care of yourself better.
Yin Yoga helped me a lot to feel better. Would you like to discover what it can mean for you?
Clark, B., The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga (2012).
Eliot, T. Why Yin Yoga is the OG Fascia Blaster | THE FULLEST (2018),
Langevin, M., Bouffard, N., Fox, J., Palmer, B., Wu, J., Latridis, J., Barnes, W., Badger, G., Howe, A., “Fibroblast cytoskeletal remodeling contributes to connective tissue tension.” Journal of Cellular Physiology (2011).
Myers, T. Frederick, C., “Stretching and Fascia.” Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body (2012).
Schleip, R. Jager H., “Interoception: A new correlate for intricate connections between fascial receptors, emotion and self recognition.” Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body (2012).
van der Waal, J., “Proprioception.” Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body (2012).