What is myofascial release (MFR) and how can I benefit from it?
Fascia is the connective tissue that interlinks the trillions of cells in our bodies like a 3-D spider web and holds us together, an embryological and anatomical network. The myofascia refers to the fascia that covers our muscles. Understanding fascia is fundamental to attain optimal balance between stability and movement, something we all require whether it’s for high performance, rehabilitation or in our daily routines.
Dried out as if you’ve left a lump of clay out in the sun all day.
Fascia is elastic, a wet, gluey and fibrous tissue. Compare the flexibility of a toddler to the stiffness of an elderly person. Due to years of incorrect posture, stress associations and poor movement patterns we lose elasticity in the fascial network. Circulation in the area is blocked and it turns dry and rigid, thus creating distortions and congestion. By applying pressure to the affected area you can undo restrictions and signal the brain to hydrate it, thus making the fibers malleable again and regain the lost elasticity and proper length and activation of the muscles in the proper context.
It’s important to consider the concept of tensegrity.
Since everything is connected its enough for one small area to be tight and pull on the tissue and change our entire structure. As humans we adapt to our environment. Due to a sedentary culture of spending hours per day sitting down whether it’s studying, working at a desk, driving etc. we have ended up with a population with dysfunctions and compensatory movement patterns. Long periods of sitting shorten our hip flexors, mainly the tensor fascia latae. Due to reciprocal inhibition the gluteus, our most powerful muscle, will lengthen and assume a more dormant state as the brain believes the hip flexors are currently at work. As you then get up and move about your day or go for your workout your gluteus and hip flexors remain in this state (dormant VS overactive) and you’ve altered the entire fascial structure, and therefore your posture and gait cycle. From there the domino effect takes place and the path towards injuries and daily aches and pains begins.
Reasons our myofascia tighten.
Often poor posture and repetitive incorrect movement can be the initial cause. Tight hip flexors cause an anterior shift of the pelvis that pulls you forward to keeping your weight on the toes. Since the centre of gravity has been altered the upper body must respond and in turn starts rounding the upper back, resulting in kyphosis. As a result the upper abdominals tighten and then pull further on the sternum, forcing the ribcage downwards and compressing the spine. Abdominal crunches and upper abdominal workouts then further reinforce the same problem of being stuck in spinal flexion. Consequently, organs are crushed and won’t function properly causing poor digestion and many other health problems and inefficient breathing patterns are established. Years of superficial breathing have an immense effect on the overall health. Distorted fascia can also pull on bones and alter their position.
Untying the knots
Correct application of MFR on the deepest layer of fascia undo the restrictions like untying knots and signal the brain to hydrate the specific area. We regain elasticity of the tissues and eliminate aches and pains, prepare your muscles for a hard workout or competition and ensure you’re operating at your best. You also affect all the other cells in the surrounding area such as nerves, muscle, and epithelia and can also use MFR to stimulate areas of ‘sensori-motor amnesia’ – to bring sensation into places that aren’t activating properly.
The daily plan
Ideally you should put aside a few minutes per day to focus on release work to counter your daily lifestyle, improving your breathing and staying as relaxed as possible. However, its important to understand what areas of your body needs releasing and which need re-activating to improve your posture and gait cycle rather than releasing without intention or over stretching leading to hypermobility.
If you want more info book in a session with Eqvvs new addition and posture and human movement practitioner Sol Da Luz.