Myofascial release: A practice for every body
If you’re yet to experience the magic that is myofascial release, well, you’re in for a real treat. The perfect accompaniment to your Pilates or yoga routine, myofascial release is a technique that focuses on releasing tension and tightness in your body’s deep connective tissue, known as fascia. By releasing this tension, you can improve your overall mobility, flexibility, and wellbeing – which is especially helpful as you age.
One of the best things about myofascial release is that it can be modified and enhanced to suit your personal desires and limitations – making it the kind of technique that can benefit almost anyone. Perhaps you’re feeling a little tense in the joints and muscles after a stronger than usual Pilates practice. Or maybe you’re going through the natural shifts of an ageing body. Myofascial release is also especially beneficial for women’s wellness, as it can help alleviate the symptoms associated with pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause and beyond.
So, what exactly is fascia?
You might like to imagine fascia as a spiderweb that weaves throughout your entire body. It’s the deep connective tissue that provides structural support and protection to your muscles, organs, and other tissues. It’s made up of a network of fibres, collagen, and elastin that are arranged in layers. It’s pretty interesting stuff – even if you’re not an anatomy nerd. Fascia plays a fundamental role in maintaining your body’s overall health – helping to facilitate the transmission of forces between different parts of your body, and even regulating blood flow, lymphatic drainage, and nerve function.
This webby stuff that’s responsible for so much of your health and wellbeing can become restricted or tight from repetitive movement patterns (or lack thereof!). This can leave the fascia dehydrated and stiff – like a cloth that’s been left to dry. This leads to pain, discomfort, and limited range of motion. But – when you rehydrate the fascia through myofascial release, it’s like rehydrating that dry cloth – suddenly things begin to move a little more freely. Recent research has even indicated that improving the health of your fascia can facilitate a range of chronic pain conditions.
What is myofascial release and what makes it so magic?
So, what does myofascial release look like, exactly? Well, it involves applying gentle pressure to specific points on the body, using tools like foam rollers, massage balls, or even just your own hands. By doing this, you can release tension in the fascia - improving circulation in the affected areas. And, as we’ve seen, this can help reduce pain, improve flexibility, and promote overall relaxation and wellbeing.
For those of us who are ageing (aka – all of us!), myofascial release can be particularly helpful in addressing the effects of time on your body. As you age, the fascia can become tight and restricted – which is part of what leads to a decrease in mobility, and an increase in pain and stiffness. Myofascial release can help alleviate these symptoms, allowing you to move more freely and feel more comfortable in your body.
In addition to its physical benefits, myofascial release can also have a profound impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing. By releasing tension in the fascia, you can also release emotional tension that may become stored in your body. Have you ever felt teary whilst receiving a massage, in a hip opening yoga pose or in a yin yoga class? There are many explanations as to why this happens – but one of them is that emotional tension can become stored in the body’s deep connective tissues. So, when you release the fascia, the emotion that is somehow ‘stuck’ in the body can also be released - helping you to ultimately feel more grounded and relaxed.
The best bit? Myofascial release can be so easily incorporated into other movement practices and tailored to meet your individual needs. Even though you’re working deep, myofascial release doesn’t have to be an intense or painful experience. In fact, it should be quite the opposite – gentle, relaxed, and soothing. When you approach myofascial release with a sense of calm and ease, you allow your body to fully release physical and emotional tension and let go of stress.
How it works
So, how can you incorporate myofascial release into your yoga, Pilates, or other movement practices? There are a variety of tools and techniques available, including foam rollers, massage balls, and even specific yin yoga poses that target the fascia.
To target the back and hips, try using a foam roller. Simply lay the foam roller perpendicular to your spine, and gently roll back and forth, pausing at any tight or tender spots. This helps to release tension in the lower back and hips.
Another great technique is using a massage ball on the soles of your feet. This can help release tension in the plantar fascia, which can become tight and painful at different times of life – including as you age. Simply roll the ball under your foot, pausing at any tender spots, and breathe deeply as you explore how it feels in your body.
While myofascial release is practised using tools, if you don’t have them, yin yoga is also a wonderful way to release the fascia. To use yin yoga for myofascial release, simply select a few poses that target areas of tension or discomfort in your body. Hold each pose for several minutes, allowing your body to sink deeper into the stretch and release tension in the connective tissues. Or, better still – join us for a yin yoga class.
Overall, myofascial release is a gentle and effective way to support all bodies. Like yin yoga, myofascial release encourages you to approach your body with a sense of gentleness and patience – listening to your body and respecting your limits. Both practices offer a sense of relaxation and grounding, allowing you to tune out the noise of the world and turn inward to find peace and stillness.
By releasing the body’s fascia, you can create more freedom in your body and mind through all phases of life. Remember to listen to your body, breathe fully, and invite yourself to completely let go. Your body will thank you for it.