Releasing your Fascia: What, Why, How?

Lynne Fugard, our Restorative and Yin/Yang Yoga Teacher shares six of her tips for easy home massage using simple props, such as the humble Tennis ball...


Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a technique of self-massage that uses props such as blocks, balls, and foam rollers to work into the web of connective tissues (fascia) that surround, connect, support and separate every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. Comprising a single network that reaches through us from head to toe, healthy fascia ensures that our muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons are correctly aligned and bound together whilst allowing these structures to move smoothly and freely over, around and with one another.

As we move and live in our bodies however, portions of our fascia inevitably become overly dense, knotted and rigid. These adhesion's or densifications impede full range and efficiency of movement, resulting in that familiar feeling of tightness, tension, and inflexibility, or even causing chronic pain, discomfort and injury.

Finding that SMR helps to maintain healthy fascia thereby preventing such injuries, The National Academy of Sports Medicine has additionally concluded that myofascial release:

  • Aids optimal balance between flexibility and strength in muscles
  • Improves range of motion, flexibility and freedom of movement in the joints
  • Relieves and relaxes sore, tight, tense and knotted muscles
  • Enhances circulation to the muscles, aiding recovery.

I’ve previously written about the transformational benefits of Yin Yoga for releasing into the fascial network, and in my own practice and classes I often combine yin positions with elements of prop-supported myofascial release to really reap these benefits. The below sequence therefore combines yin yoga poses with just a few of many possible SMR techniques to ease into those spots where we often carry tension. These poses are specifically designed to work into the fascia at the back of our bodies from head to toe, to leave you feeling lithe, relaxed and comfortable in your body. Enjoy!

 

6 Easy Fascial Release Postures:
 

1.      Base of the skull release with a block (2-3 minutes)

Lie on the back with the head resting on a yoga block. Slowly roll your head from side to side, letting the edge of the block press into the fascia at the base of the skull. Work gently into any spots that feel especially sensitive: it should feel really good! 

Lie on the back with the head resting on a yoga block. Slowly roll your head from side to side, letting the edge of the block press into the fascia at the base of the skull. Work gently into any spots that feel especially sensitive: it should feel really good! 

Good for: Headaches, before a yoga practice, before sleeping.

 

2.      Tennis balls under the back (5-10 minutes, or as required)

Place two tennis balls either side of the spine between the shoulder blades. Lie on the back and move around to massage into the muscles. Again, find those especially tender spots, and make small, mindful movements to explore the sensation. You can roll the tennis balls all the way from the top of the back to the bottom of the spine for a full back massage.

Place two tennis balls either side of the spine between the shoulder blades. Lie on the back and move around to massage into the muscles. Again, find those especially tender spots, and make small, mindful movements to explore the sensation. You can roll the tennis balls all the way from the top of the back to the bottom of the spine for a full back massage.

Good for: Tense shoulders, back pain, after exercise.

 

3.      Tennis balls in the calves (3-5 mins)

Place tennis balls into the back of the knee as you try to kneel as much weight on them as possible, perhaps taking tiny swaying movements from side to side. This pose simultaneously works into both the calves and hamstrings – the sensation can be quite intense, so go easy into it! You can always adopt more of a child’s pose (leaning the upper body forward as in the picture) to take some of the weight out of the tennis balls. After a minute or two, you can move the tennis balls down the calf slightly and repeat, targeting a different part of the muscle.

Place tennis balls into the back of the knee as you try to kneel as much weight on them as possible, perhaps taking tiny swaying movements from side to side. This pose simultaneously works into both the calves and hamstrings – the sensation can be quite intense, so go easy into it! You can always adopt more of a child’s pose (leaning the upper body forward as in the picture) to take some of the weight out of the tennis balls. After a minute or two, you can move the tennis balls down the calf slightly and repeat, targeting a different part of the muscle.

Good for: after exercise, tight calves and hamstrings.

 

4.      Toe Squat (2-3 mins)

Tuck the toes under and kneel as much weight into the feet as possible. This is an intense, fiery position, so feel free to come in and out of the pose as needed. Keep the face and jaw soft and relaxed whilst cultivating a deep, long, smooth and calming breath. When coming out, point the toes and tap the top of the feet on the ground to let any sensation dissipate.

Tuck the toes under and kneel as much weight into the feet as possible. This is an intense, fiery position, so feel free to come in and out of the pose as needed. Keep the face and jaw soft and relaxed whilst cultivating a deep, long, smooth and calming breath. When coming out, point the toes and tap the top of the feet on the ground to let any sensation dissipate.

Good for: flat feet, under-defined arches, over-pronating or over-supinating feet, weak ankles, runners, preventing injury.

 

5.      Dangling (3-5 mins)

Stand with feet hip-width apart and fold forward, keeping the legs as straight as possible. Let the torso dangle from the hips: the head is heavy, the shoulders are rounding up by the ears, and the arms are just draping from the shoulders toward the floor. Focus on every exhalation, noticing how heavy and relaxed the upper body becomes as you release deeper into gravity, decompressing the lower spine and lengthening the whole back-body from heels to base of the skull. To come out, bend the knees and lower into a squat position for a few seconds, careful not to raise the head too quickly.

Stand with feet hip-width apart and fold forward, keeping the legs as straight as possible. Let the torso dangle from the hips: the head is heavy, the shoulders are rounding up by the ears, and the arms are just draping from the shoulders toward the floor. Focus on every exhalation, noticing how heavy and relaxed the upper body becomes as you release deeper into gravity, decompressing the lower spine and lengthening the whole back-body from heels to base of the skull. To come out, bend the knees and lower into a squat position for a few seconds, careful not to raise the head too quickly.

Good for: back pain, tense shoulders, tight calves and hamstrings, before sleeping, calming the nervous system.

 

6.      Supported reclined goddess pose (5 mins)

Rest the back of the body on a bolster or pillow, letting the chest open and the shoulders release away from the ears. The back of the neck is long, and your legs can be in any configuration that is comfortable. Close the eyes, soften the face, relax, and breathe.

Rest the back of the body on a bolster or pillow, letting the chest open and the shoulders release away from the ears. The back of the neck is long, and your legs can be in any configuration that is comfortable. Close the eyes, soften the face, relax, and breathe.

Good for: relaxation, tense shoulders, enhancing breath capacity, stress-relief.

 

Please check with your individual physician or health professional before trying these postures at home. Especially if you have a pre-existing injury. Always perform stretches with care and a mindful awareness of your body.


Join Lynne for

Restorative Yin Yoga on Wednesdays 19.30-20.30
and
Yin/Yang Yoga on Thursdays 18.45-19.45.


 

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