Here is the unedited version of an article I wrote for Aloha Magazine about some of my beliefs on Fascial health. Even after they edited half the good stuff out, I still feel it points straight to why so many folks out there are in pain, in spite of (or sometimes as a direct result of) exercising regularly.
The original edited version of this article is posted here: https://aloha.com/magazine/articles/discover-rolfing-necessary-and-isnt-what-you-think-it-is
If one of the vast majority, your new years resolution for 2015 has something to do with getting in better shape. Unfortunately, a good number of people who succeeded in accomplishing similar fitness goals for 2014, also ended up in my office to address chronic or acute pain symptoms as a result.
Yes, it’s true, the yoga butt, spin class hips, boot camp thighs, and cross fit abs, all have a set of potentially dangerous consequences associated with them. Without pointing the finger at any particular discipline, let’s just say that sometime around mid february there will be an onslaught of shoulder, neck, hip, knee and lower back injuries coming into my clinic here in NYC. Most of these injuries will occur as a direct result of people attempting to get in better shape through exercise and movement programs.
Now, I’m sure at this point I’ve already got at least a few people out there upset by suggesting that their existing approach to movement and exercise could be doing more harm than good. But before you get your your spin bike in a jam, let me clarify, I am not saying that WHAT you’re doing for personal fitness is wrong. What I am saying is……
How you move about(or more accurately don’t move about) in daily life between workouts is of utmost importance, and often not given any attention at all!
Once this point has been properly understood and addressed, the above practices can and often do lead to increased health and well being without injury or pain.
Your body is constantly putting down new layers of fascia to coat, protect and most importantly connect your many different bones, muscles, and organs. When new Fascia is first produced it is at first very soft and wispy almost like a spiders web. Over time, as a result of pressures placed on the body from daily movement (or lack thereof), the fascia becomes matted down into thick layers. Fascia does not discriminate, it simply keeps growing and eventually hardening into whatever shapes you make most often with your body.
For hundreds of thousands of years of evolution this worked quite well, as Human beings moved an average of 4-6 hours per day. This 4-6 hours of movement was no mere thumbing on a smartphone either, it was a constantly varied combination of walking, squatting, jumping, standing and running. These constant variations of movement on shifting terrain stimulated our fascia to harden in a balanced, efficient, and differentiated manner. This was extremely effective at protecting and stabilizing the different structures of the body in all of the above activities while maintaining ease and freedom of movement.
Fast forward to present day and the average human being in the west spends at least 4-6 hours per day in front of a computer screen. Our bodies long evolution of constantly interfacing with shifting terrains and textures in 3 dimensions has been replaced very quickly with flat screens, flat shoes, flat beds, flat pavements and flat walls. We desperately try our best to go against hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and squeeze our dynamic 3d bodies into this static new 2d world. Remember, Fascia does not discriminate, it simply keeps growing and eventually hardening into whatever shapes you make most often with your body. Unfortunately today that most likely means your body resembles the shape of an office chair. Fascia shaped like an office chair it turns out is not good for much of anything, other than sitting in an office chair. Oh, and injuring yourself in Yoga classes.
To reiterate, the way you walk, sit, stand and breathe throughout the entire day, NOT just when exercising, is drastically overlooked and undervalued as the greatest contributing factor to pain and limitation you may be experiencing in your body right now. Whatever exercise or movement you do is not inherently bad. However, coupled with a predominately sedentary modern lifestyle, small spurts of intense movement can be extreme and often times too much for the body to handle.
The solutions are simple but not a quick fix, we’ve got to challenge the existing fascia that has become stuck into the shape of our smartphones and office chairs consistently in our every day lives if we want real change.
If you are currently in pain or even if you just want to get a jump start on increasing your physical fitness , you may want to consider finding a Rolfer™ in your area. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait to start reclaiming your fascial health. There are lots of things you can start doing on your own to reclaim your fascia starting today.
Here are some fundamentals to get you started.
1.Switch positioning often throughout the day. Whether you are sitting, standing or standing on your head, remember the body was not designed to stay in a single position for extended periods of time. So, switch up your posture and positioning as often as possible. Standing desks are now becoming mainstream so don’t be afraid to talk with your boss about making your workstation more dynamic if you’re in an office situation.
2. Walk and stretch more.
Add a minimum of 20 minutes walking and 20 minutes of gentle stretching to your existing daily routine broken up throughout the day. You could even consider setting a timer every hour or two to remind yourself to change things up and have a quick 2-5 minute walk and stretch before coming back to your task in a new position. Remember, small increments that total 40 minutes throughout the day serve you far better than 1 block all together.
3. Abdominal breathing is best.
Whenever possible, keep your mouth closed and breathe in and out through the nose down into the belly and lower back. This is called rest and digest breathing and will help relax and focus your body and mind. This is opposed to the more common fight or flight breathing through the mouth into the upper chest. This type of breathing is great for running from tigers but unfortunately not so good for responding to emails from your boss, or digesting food.
4. Get rid of your shoes whenever possible.
Keep things like soft river rocks, tennis balls, or anything with an interesting texture to stand on within reach. Stimulating the fascia and nerves in your feet is the single largest component in building a firm foundation of support for the entire body.
5. Release your Fascia on your own.
You need to be careful with this one!
Taking a MELT Method or Yoga Tune Up class, or having a Rolfer™ teach you some specific techniques in person is essential if you’d like to start getting into releasing fascia on your own. Remember, less is definitely more in this case, and it shouldn’t have to hurt in order to get results.
Well, this should be plenty to keep you and your fascia busy for now. I’ll be back soon enough with more things you can do to achieve and maintain your new years resolutions, free from pain and limitations, whatever they may be.