For most of us, our New Year’s resolutions involve 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. The spin class hips, boot camp thighs, and cross fit abs, all have a set of potentially dangerous consequences associated with them. No particular discipline is to blame, but sometime around mid-February I see an onslaught of neck, knee and lower back injuries.
Your body is constantly putting down new layers of fascia, connective tissue, to coat, protect, and connect your many different bones, muscles, and organs. When new fascia is produced it is at first very soft and wispy. 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 thousands of years this worked quite well, as humans moved an average of four to six hours per day. This four to six 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 while maintaining ease and freedom of movement.
Now the average urban human spends hours per day in front of a computer screen. Our bodies’ long evolution of constantly interfacing with shifting terrains and textures in three dimensions has been replaced very quickly with two: flat screens, flat beds, and flat pavements. Fascia does not discriminate, it simply keeps growing and eventually hardens into whatever shapes you make most often. 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.
The way you walk, sit, stand and breathe throughout the entire day is drastically overlooked and undervalued as the greatest contributing factor to pain and limitation you may be experiencing, not exercise. Any 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.
We’ve got to challenge the existing fascia that has become stuck into the shape of our office chairs consistently in our everyday lives if we want real change. Rolfing Structural Integration is a hands on Manual Therapy that helps differentiate and restructure fascia through various types of sustained touch, movement, and perceptual cues. Rolf Movement Integration is designed to help you find new, more efficient ways of moving to make sure your newly freed fascia stays that way.
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 today.
**Here are five fundamentals to get you started:
2. Walk and stretch more. Add a minimum of 20 minutes walking and 20 minutes of gentle stretching to your existing daily routine. 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 one 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 not so good for responding to emails from your boss.
4. Get rid of your shoes whenever possible. Keep things like smooth 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, and it shouldn’t have to hurt in order to get results.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock, Sarah Lee