We all know that feeling when bending down to tie shoelaces, put on socks, or pick up something off the floor. It feels like something is physically holding us back. Is it because we are unfit and don’t go to the gym as often as we should? Surprisingly, the answer is no. What’s likely to be compromising our flexibility is our connective tissues, or ‘fascia’.
For many years, we’ve thought of the body as a series of separate parts, and it’s been assumed that our muscles, skin and bones hold us all together. However, medics now realize that it’s actually our fascia that envelops us and holds us together - not too dissimilar to the transparent layer of skin surrounding every segment in an orange. Fascia is like a cling-wrap all around all our muscles, bones, nerves, arteries and veins in our bodies, as well as all our internal organs, including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord.
As well as holding us together, fascia lives between every cell in the body and offers support and reduces friction during everyday movements. It consists of cord–like fibers that run everywhere - even through tendons and cartilage - and they help keep our skeleton in shape, guide our movements and coordinate our postural patterns.
Fascia is a watery substance with a high proportion of collagen. In a healthy state, it’s a relaxed and wavy connective tissue. However, long term stress, trauma, accidents, and even poor posture can cause the fibers to thicken in order to protect the underlying muscle. Also, as we age, we begin to lose collagen and the fascia gradually becomes denser and drier. This creates a barrier that reduces nourishment reaching our cells which in turn restricts our range of motion leading to pain and decreased blood flow.
This is where Yin yoga comes in. One of the most effective and less well-known styles of yoga, Yin is a subtle and slow practice where every posture targets the fascia. Typically, poses are held for between 2-5 minutes to help stretch and ease the fiber webbing. As the fascia fibers begin to slowly thin out and become ‘unglued’; our movements improve and we can enjoy and we can enjoy greater flexibility and mobility of our joints. However, Yin is not a quick fix. Areas that have been damaged for a long time will take time and patience, so regular strengthening and stretching is recommended.
Yin provides the perfect balance for those with fast-paced lives or who have an active sports or yoga practice. Even top athletes now incorporate Yin into their recovery programs as a way of increasing flexibility, relieving tightness and relaxing body and mind. Yin is also ideal for older people looking to regain mobility in their joints.
So, if bending down and putting on socks is a challenge for you, then you need to find your nearest Yin class. Or, if you’ve never done yoga before, why not book private lessons with a Yin specialist to help get you started? Your body will thank you for it.
If you are going through menopause and would like to know how yoga can help, click the link below to obtain a copy of my FREE e-book . This demonstrates a selection of yoga poses that bring relief to menopausal symptoms. Whilst some are restorative, others are energy boosting or focus specifically on symptoms such as hot flashes. https://www.yourselfyoga.com/free-resources
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