I had a physical therapist, specializing in myofascial massage tell me I had the tightest fascia he’d ever worked on. It would have been nice to have had the tightest something else here or there on my body he’d ever worked on, but alas, it was my myofascia.
Apparently, this is not a good thing.
Fascia are bands or sheets of fibrous tissues beneath our skin that surround, enclose and separate our muscles, blood vessels and nerves.
I began taking Yin Yoga classes at a local Yoga studio, with the specific intention of keeping my fascia pliable.
Yin Yoga postures are passive. You relax into them (let your body invite you to relax into this position the teacher will often say). Yin offers a deep access to the body, softening the muscles through the breath. We often hold the postures three to five minutes, breathing deeper into them as our body relaxes.
It’s a meditative approach with the physical stretches. Our intention is to access the deeper tissues like the fascia, with concentration near the inner thighs, pelvis, hips, sacrum and spine. These areas of our body are especially rich in connective tissues.
I like that it requires as much from my mind as my body. The stretches are simple but not easy. And there IS a difference between simple and easy. My mind is challenged to process negative thought patterns into compassionate thoughts. For example, instead of fighting a stretch or being overprotective of certain body parts (like my hips and lower back), I’m learning to move my breath into those areas and let my body “invite” me to open up in places I often constrict out of fear or habit.
We’re asked in Yin Yoga classes to stay long periods of time in positions that may be uncomfortable at first, until we learn to open into it.
Officially, some of the benefits of Yin Yoga are listed as:
- Calms and balances the mind and body
- Regulates energy in the body
- Increases mobility in the body, especially the joints and hips (yay!)
- Lowers stress levels (who needs that?)
- Greater stamina
- Better lubrication in joints and connective tissue
- Release of fascia throughout the body (my massage therapist of years ago would be so proud)
- Deeper relaxation
- Helps with TMJ and migraines
- Better ability to sit for meditation
I read an article last week that advised those of us who are aging (well, we’re all aging, aren’t we, from the moment we’re born?) to spend time stretching, specifically through yoga or pilates. We might exercise aerobically and/or lift weights, but, the article pointed out, many of us aren’t stretching – to our detriment.
One yoga instructor compared our myofascial and other connective tissues to icing on a cake; so pliable and soft and fresh when we’re young and/or active, but as we age, it can get to be like icing that’s been left sitting out for a couple days. Dry. Stiff. Brittle. Lacking luster. You get the picture.
I’ve felt immediate and multi-layered benefits from participating in these classes. I’m more mindful of my body. I feel more grateful for it. I feel a sense of working with it, rather than against it. One evening, hesitantly attending because my lower back was tight after I’d spent too much time in the garden that day, I left class more open and mobile, looser and lighter. The Yin practice removed my fear, loosened my grip on the tightness and blessed me with pliability and peace.
Have you ever tried Yin Yoga? Is it offered near you? Give it a try – you might just end up feeling like a fresh, sparkling bit of frosting. And what’s not to love about that?