Fascial Hydration and Cleansing through Asana Practice
Yoga - For the Health of It:
Fascial Hydration and Cleansing through Asana Practice by Carrie Gaynor, Absolute Yoga & Wellness
Water is a lifeline for health and well-being. Hydration, the process through which the body moves water, continues to be explored today. The practice of Yoga asanas is a part of these new discoveries.
The water in you...
Water is essential to life; in fact, our bodies are up to 60 % water by weight. The flow of water through our bodies is a two part process involving 1) irrigation and 2) hydration.
Irrigation is your actual consumption of water and water dense foods in adequate amounts.
Hydration is the chemical process by which water molecules bind with proteins and other substances.
However, a new conversation has begun among movement practitioners, manual practitioners and researchers. The dialog is revolving around fascia ( pronounced ˊfăSH(ē)ǝ ), the least studied but most prevalent tissue in the body. In the case of fascia, hydration is a bio-mechanical, not a chemical process. By stretching the fascial tissues, toxins are pushed out, creating space for fresh fluids to be reabsorbed. The practices of Yoga postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama) are bio-mechanical processes to cleanse our fascial tissues.
Fluid Dynamics and Fascia
Water has continuously proven to be a fascinating substance. Dr. Gerald Pollack, a University of Washington professor of bioengineering , has developed new theories. In his keynote address titled The Secret Life of Water: E = H2O to the 2012 Fascial Research Congress, he discussed a 4th state of water, which is “bound”. The bound state stands along side of the well known solid, liquid and vapor states we learned in school. It is in this 4th state that water is bound to the protein, collagen, creating special conditions within the fascia. Pollack’s explorations include understanding how water in its “bound” state contributes to the flow of fluids through fascial tissue. We look forward to more application of Pollack’s work in the world of fascial research.
In the mean time, understand that fascia is our biological fabric, which ranges from the ropey tendons and ligaments to the tough sacs around the organs down to the delicate membranes that provide the 'carpet-backing' for your body's other tissues. Fascia has two main components - one is collagen protein and the other is a watery “ground substance” called extracellular matrix (ECM).
Image A - This is a fascial model - the green mesh and white strands represent the collagen fibers while the softer white filling represents the fluid component of fascia, the ECM. Fascia assumes many forms in the body, varying with its structural role. Figure A represents fascial tissue with a high percentage of collagen fiber relative to the amount of ECM. This is the exactly the case for the ilio-tibial band (ITB), whose role is to stabilize our hip and assist in the production of force in the thigh. Thus, it has a higher concentration of fiber and lower concentration of ECM compared to the fascia in Image B.
Image B -This is a photograph of a second type of fascia. Please note the translucent, slippery looking, raw egg white consistency. Based on what you have learned about fascia, you would not be surprised to know that this fascia has a role in allowing the tissues above it (like skin and fat) to slide over the muscle beneath it. Consistent with its role, it has more ECM than fiber (as is represented in Image A.).
Fascial Hydration and Stretching
Fascia is alive (Schleip, Jager, Klinger)! It is referred to as “the organ of form”, wrapping and permeating our muscles (myofascia), organs and bones in a tensional network that gives form to our shape. Schleip et al. are researching the effects of placing fascia in a stretched position over time and at different “loads”.
Image C - Stretching causes the collagen fibers to narrow (compare to Image A.), extruding or squeezing out fluids with cellular waste products.
Practice Tip: The process of fluid flow in fascial hydration contributes to the feeling of pliability and suppleness felt by the yoga practitioner during and right after their practice. Interestingly, some of that feeling of length is related to the release of fluid from your fascia tissue. In the hours following a yoga asana practice or a really long savasana, your fascia will be drawing in fresh fluids. As this phase of fascial hydration takes place, we may notice that we feel “stiffer”. This is not due to shortening of the muscle tissue, but because our tissues drawing in fresh fluids and are thus re-plumping and rehydrating (Meert)!
Image D - In Triangle pose, (Trikonasana) there are several key areas that you may notice the feeling of a stretch. One of them is the side body or Lateral Line (LL) (Myers). You can see the LL - one of the longitudinal myofascial meridians set out by Myers’ in his seminal work, Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, in figure E. The next time you are in Triangle pose or any other side bending posture, you can visualize the anatomy of fascial connection through the LL, and the deep cleaning that your fascial tissues are undergoing.
Yoga Practice - An Organic Body-wide Cleanse
Recall that in Image A and C, you could see that the collagen fibers go in different directions. In actuality, the collagen fibers organize not only in direction but also in layers (think plywood here). Having movement practices like those contained within yoga ensures that our body tissues are exposed to stretching in different directions. It is the sheer variety of asanas (forward bends, backward bends, side bends, rotations and inversions) that invoke fascial hydration and add this “organic body wide cleanse” to the long list of known benefits. The continuing research efforts of today and tomorrow will yield new information with future application to fascial hydration and yoga - to include the variables such as time spent in a stretch and the intensity of such.
For the present moment, let the fluids flow and practice yoga - just for the health of it!
Carrie Gaynor, as been working with the body and its relationship to structure for over 20 years. An RN and E-RYT 500 she co-directs ABSOLUTE yoga & wellness where she teaches TriYoga® Flow and Yoga-for the Health of It, her signature series of yoga classes and writing pursuits for enhanced well being. Carrie maintains a private practice as a Board Certified Structural Integratorcm and Fascial Stretch Therapist®. An educator at heart, she teaches Anatomy Trains® and other short courses through Thomas Myers / Kinesis, LLC, nationally and abroad. The practice and teaching of Yoga is a continuous thread through this network of related academic and training pursuits.
References Meert, G. (2012). Fluid Dynamics in Fascial Tissue. In Schleip, R, Findley, T., Chaitow, L., Huijing, P. (Eds. ) Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Body (pp. 175 - 181). Edinburgh: Elsevier.
Myers, T. (2009). 2nd Ed. Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. New York: Elsevier
Pollack, G. (2009). Water, Energy and Life: Fresh Views From the Water’s Edge. Retrieved July 2, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVBEwn6iWOo
Schleip, R., Duerselen, L., Vleeming, A., Naylor, I., Lehmann-Horn, F., Zorn, A., Jaeger, H., Klinger, W. (2012). Strain hardening of fascia: Static stretching of dense fibrous connective tissues can induce a temporary stiffness increase accompanied by enhanced matrix hydration. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 16 (1), pp 94 - 100.
Schleip, R., Jager, H., Klinger, W. (2012) Fascia is a live: How cells modulate the tonicity and architecture of fascial tissues. (chapter 4.2) In Schleip, R, Findley, T., Chaitow, L., Huijing, P. (Eds. ) Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Body (pp. 157 - 164). Edinburgh: Elsevier.
Image A, Thank you to Absolute yoga & wellness and Carrie Gaynor
Image B, Thank you to Yaron Gal Carmel for his permissions to print for use of this article.
Image D, Thank you to Absolute yoga & wellness, model Elizabeth Doyne and photographer, Theodore Fox.
Image E, Courtesy of Thomas Myers - thank you!
Content copyright . iRocYoga. All rights reserved.