What is Fascia, and how does it come into play in Yin yoga?
In this article, you’ll learn about its scientific link to Yin yoga, and how this knowledge will improve your life.
When a group of people come together to talk about Yin yoga, what’s the first thing you hear them talk about? Most likely Fascia.
But what is a Fascia, and how does it figure in Yin Yoga? We’ll explore here.
What is Fascia and Why it Matters
The first known article in PubMed that mentioned Fascia dates back to 1814. But it is something that was known much earlier.
Fascia is the connective tissue that separates your muscles and other organs in your body, all the while attaching, enclosing, and stabilising them together during all movements.
The function of the Fascia depends on whether it is structural, intersectoral, visceral, or spinal. And while there are different kinds of Fascia, they are all still related.
Fascia is a Latin word that means “band” or “bundle”. It is a white or translucent sheet made of collagen and other fibers.
Let me give you a real life example. Recall the last time you cleaned a piece of chicken breast? While you were rinsing it with water, did you notice the white or transparent sheet that enclosed it?
It is so thin that sometimes you don’t see it unless you touch or jiggle the chicken breast. That’s what Fascia is. But note that Fascia is not always that thin.
Fascia varies in thickness and density, depending on where it is found in the body. It is thick in the central parts of the body, such as your chest and the stomach. It is thinner when close to the skin and away from the body’s center.
When the Fascia is healthy, it is flexible, slippery, smooth, and can make up many forms. When it is unhealthy it is sticky and clumpy, or dry, tight, and flaky.
The Fascia is the largest organ in the body. It’s in every bone, muscle, nerve, artery, vein, internal organ, and spinal cord. It wraps, cushions, and supports everything inside our body; it connects our organs to our ribs, muscles, and bones to each other.
For that reason, it matters. You need to keep your Fascia healthy for your body to function well.
Yin Yoga and Fascia
Fascia is present in all parts of the body. Therefore it is necessary to keep it healthy. The number one reason Fascia becomes unhealthy is sedentary lifestyle.
A lifestyle with little to no exercise is bad for Fascia. That’s because it needs to stretch, and for it to stretch you need movement.
Therefore, any movement practice, whether weight lifting, barre, HIIT, or Vinyasa Yoga, will help keep the Fascia healthy.
But why is Fascia often associated with Yin Yoga?
Like other connective tissue, Fascia has plasticity, which means it can stretch. The ability of the connective tissues, such as the Fascia, to lengthen is called the creep. Creep happens when you load tissues with stress, allowing them to stretch.
In Vinyasa and other styles of yoga where stretches are quick, the Fascia and other connective tissues can still creep. However, slow and sustained stress in the connective tissues is more effective.
In Yin yoga, since you hold the poses static for a longer time, the Fascia continues to have the ability to creep even when you don’t load it with more stress. Furthermore passive stretching in Yin yoga stimulates even the deeper layers of Fascia.
Top Poses for Fascia Release
The passive poses of Yin yoga are all great for Fascia’s release. Try these top poses for a full-body Fascia release.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Balasana is an excellent Fascia release pose because it stretches the whole spine, shoulders, ankles, and knees. To practice the Child’s pose:
- Sit down on your knees and heels. Separate your knees, a hip-width distance while keeping your big toes together.
- Walk your hands forward until your forehead reaches the ground.
- Stay in Balasana for three to five mins.
- If you can’t sit on your knees and heels, put a rolled towel or a block between your buttocks and your heels.
Bhujangasana (Seal Pose)
Bhujangasana is great for stretching the Fascia in the front body, particularly in the chest and hip flexors and the lumbar spine. To do the Seal pose:
- Lay down on your belly with your legs slightly apart.
- Bring your hands on either side of your chest and lift the chest. Keep looking forward.
- Stay in this asana for three to five minutes.
- Put a thick pillow or bolster under your ribs if you cannot keep your chest up.
- If there is tension in the pubic bone, place a cushion under it.
- If there’s too much pressure in the low back, adjust the distance between your legs.
- If you want a deeper backbend, bend the knees.
Paschimottanasana (Caterpillar Pose)
The Paschimottanasana is an essential asana in all styles of yoga. In Yin it’s called the Caterpillar pose, but it is bsically the same thing. This posture will stimulate the Fascia in all parts of the lower body. To do it:
- Sit down on your sitting bones and stretch your legs fully in front of you while allowing your legs to relax. Bring the fingertips to either side or the back, if you can already feel a stretch in your hamstrings stay that way. If you don’t feel a stretch, fold forward.
- Hold this posture for 3 to 5 mins.
- Put a block underneath your knees if you feel pressure on them.
- If your forehead doesn’t reach your shins when you fold, and the neck starts to feel strained, rest your forehead on a block.
Halasana (Snail Pose)
Halasana, or Snail pose, stretches the Fascia along the spine. It is also an inversion. Here’s how to do this posture:
- Lie on your back and bring your hands under your buttocks.
- Lift both of your legs slowly and catch your lower back with your hands. Continue lifting your legs.
- Allow your back to round and bring your weight towards your shoulders. Then get your feet on the ground just above your head. You can keep the knees in extension or flex them to bring them close to your face.
- Stay in this posture for one to three mins or more if you’re an advanced practitioner.
- If this pose doesn’t hurt your neck and lower back, allow the arms to come down on the floor. If not, keep supporting the back with your hands.
- If this hurts your neck, come out of the pose. You may attempt to do it again later, this time placing a blanket just above your shoulders and neck.
- Women who are having their period should avoid this pose if they don’t feel comfortable doing an inversion.
Supta Virasana (Saddle Pose)
Supta Virasana or Saddle Pose is a Yin yoga posture that affects the Fascia in the ankles, calves, knees, quads, and hip flexors. To do this pose:
- Sit on your feet with your knees spread apart. Stay in this position if you feel this is enough to stretch your quads, calves, and ankles. If not, proceed to step two.
- Gently lower yourself backward while using your arms to support your body as you come down. Once you feel enough stretch, allow the forearms to prop you up, arch your back, and relax the neck. If you feel you can stretch further, proceed to step three.
- Continue lowering your back down until you rest your head or whole back down on the mat.
- Stay in this pose for at least three minutes.
- If you can’t sit on both feet because one knee feels strained, do a half Supta Virasana by extending one leg.
- Put a rolled towel between the knees and thighs. Doing this will lower the intensity you feel on your knees.
- If you have sore ankles, you can also put a rolled towel under the tops of your feet.
- If your back can’t go all the way down to the ground, rest it on some pillows or bolster.
Other Fascia-Releasing Techniques
Yin yoga is not the only Fascia-releasing technique you can practice. There are other methods as well. These are:
Foam rolling is an easy, safe, and effective Fascia-releasing technique you can do by yourself. You can do it as a warm-up or a cool-down. According to a study, 10 seconds of regular foam rolling before your workout improves your flexibility and range of motion.
It’s best to use a foam roller for broad areas like your quadriceps, IT band, and lattisimus dorsi.
You can also use a medicine ball to release your Fascia. It’s cheap, easy, and safe to use. Because a medicine ball is small, it’s great to target small and deep body areas, such as the arch of the feet or muscles under the shoulder blade.
Yin Yoga Vs. Foam Rolling and Medicine Ball for Fascia Release
Yin yoga, foam rolling, and medicine ball rolling are all effective for Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). But, Yin yoga is considered better than the two.
That is because Yin yoga doesn’t only help stimulate your Fascia and increase your flexibility, It also relieves your stress and improves your mental health.
The other two are just tools you can use to improve your physical health. Using them you can say isn’t enough. Nonetheless they are great as an addition to your other movement practice.
Mistakes to Avoid
We should remember that no one comes to a yoga class and becomes an expert instantly. It takes practice.
However to have a great exercise it is helpful to know what mistakes to avoid.
Following are the mistakes to avoid when practicing yin yoga for your Fascia.
Holding Your Breath
The difference between gymnastics and yoga is in how you breath. In Yin yoga and other styles of yoga, there is a strong emphasis on the breath. The breath carries oxygen that your body needs to function.
Not only that, it serves to connect the mind and body. When you are holding your breath you create tension, but that’s kind of good tension. Ideally allow the breath to flow when practicing Yin yoga, so your whole body can relax.
Refusal to Use Props
Props are not there to decorate the yoga studio. They are there to make the practitioners feel more comfortable and to enhance their practice. If you feel too much tension or pain in your yoga class, ask your teacher to suggest suitable props. Reluctancy to use props when they are available isn’t a virtue as such!
Forcing Your Body
It’s always tempting to go “over the top” in Yin yoga because you are not actively contracting your muscles. That’s why people sometimes feel it isn’t too intense and give up on it.
But the Fascia-releasing magic only happens when the stress is sustained gradually. So, avoid the temptation of hitting fourth gear right away. Instead, stop and stay still once you start to feel a stretch. Thereafter attempt to go deeper as soon as the stretch stabilises.
What’s the Takeaway
Fascia needs stress to keep it healthy. Practicing Yin yoga and other Fascia-release exercises will keep the whole body strong, supple and improve the overall quality of your life.
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