What is Fascia? And How it Impacts Cellulite, Tightness and Injuries.
Fascia- the connective tissue that holds your body together; is slowly gaining the recognition it deserves. Without fascia we would be quite jiggly and loose, it is a necessary glue to keep us in one upright piece. I like to think of it as the white film around a hard boiled egg. If you try and peel your egg without getting that connective tissue off, it makes it so much harder to get to the egg white (which could be thought of as the muscle).
So what happens when fascia gets tight, distorted or rigid? Well, that is where that tight feeling in your hamstrings comes from, creates those lumpy looking chunks in your rear end, and causes pain like plantar fasciitis. As you age, workout and sit still your fascia becomes a little more sticky and creates adhesions. These adhesions can restrict movement, create a tight feeling around the muscle like wearing jeans that are way too tight, and lead to injury if left untreated.
Lucky for us movers and shakers there are quite a few tools to help get our fascia back into tip top shape. Each tool can focus on the fascia system in a different way, so use a mixture of a few or combine them all for the best results!
Yin Yoga– Besides being a complimentary style to the more commonly practiced yang style of yoga (i.e. vinyasa), yin targets the joints and connective tissues, particularly of the low spine, hips and pelvis. Yin practice features longer holds that are more passive, which allows the muscles to relax in the stretch, thereby stretching any tightness remaining in the surrounding tissue and joints. By targeting the connective tissues, yin helps to create greater flexibility than its more flowing counterparts.
Fascial therapy and Rolfing– Given by a massage therapist, facial therapy is a technique that helps stretch the fascia. Fascial therapy is useful for everyone but it can be especially helpful for injury recovery movement dysfunction, and postural imbalances. This type of treatment is different from your usual swedish relaxation massage; no oils are used so the therapist can drag the tissue rather than glide over it. Rolfing is a little different as many of the techniques will be done on you while sitting or standing and is often described as more aggressive. For more info about rolfing click here.
Fascia Blaster– This unique tool has become an instagram sensation because of its focus on cellulite and the gnarly bruises that one can encounter post blasting. If you are willing to rock the bruises (which are a sign fresh blood is flowing into the area to restore and cleanse the adhesions back to normal) results tote reduced cellulite, increased circulation, reduced pain and inflammation, lysed fat cells aka spot reduction, reduced scar tissue and increased muscle performance and recovery. The blaster really gets much deeper than foam rollers or even your massage therapists fingers can go, plus you can do it at home on your own! The creator Ashley Black is a fascial “guru” who works with professional and olympic athletes, everyday people and those suffering from physical ailments such as MS or stroke. You can learn more about fascia and the benefits of the fascia blaster here.
Foam Rollers– Foam rollers have become all the rage over the past few years. You can find them in so many shapes sizes and textures now. From the flexibility and grippy texture of the memory foam in MELT Method’s new performance roller or the grid pattern of the Trigger Point Roller. The pressure of your body weight on the roller as it moves helps mash up knots and mush fascia much like rolling out dough. Just as when you roll out dough and it tries to spring back to its previous shape, your fascia will take some time to flatten back out to it’s natural shape. Using your roller on a regular basis will help massage the muscles and squeeze the fascia. Our much neglected and highly used feet are also at risk for fascial pain like that culprit plantar fasciitis. A foot roller like Theraband’s or GoFit’s can help relieve pain, rescue tired achy feet and realign your whole body. They can both be frozen to help relieve inflammation. An unrelated benefit of foam rollers is that they are also great tools for developing core strength.
Massage bars– these devices are smaller but similar to foam rollers. Often a little bit harder and rigid to get at the sore muscles more, the massage bars are handheld tools to help relieve soreness and get into tighter spots like the neck and inner thighs and calves. They also come in many textures and designs like this one from GoFit.
Some final notes on creating healthier fascia:
Drink plenty of water so it doesn’t get dried out.
Use a sauna, practice hot yoga or take hot baths to return it to its jelly-like consistency. This is particularly useful before using any of the above tools.
Always remember to stretch even before getting out of bed in the mornings to loosen things up.
Healthier fascia will reduce pain, create more aesthetically pleasing skin and increase your flexibility. For more research on fascia check out the fascia congress.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is currently teaching yoga with Peloton. She is the star of over 100 videos, seen in several magazines and tv shows and is a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!