The fascial system has 2 main purposes: Containment and Communication.
Containment provides the basis of form and structure for the muscle tissue. Tensegrity, coined in the 1960’s by Kenneth Schulman and put into practice by Buckminster Fuller in his beautiful structures geodesic domes, is a name given to a system that uses compression and separation of structures to provide strength to the overall system. Tensegrity applied to human anatomy is a little different, as in the body we are constantly wrestling between static and dynamic, linear and non linear forces which requires tremendous integration within the whole. In the static model, when a tension is applied on a structure or “still” body (no body is ever still or it would be dead), externally or internally, you will see tension throughout the structure. A good example of this is using a table cloth spread out on a table. When you pull the sheet on one corner, depending the direction of force, you will see lines of tension transmitting up the middle of the table, pulling very often on the opposite of the body or at the upper corner nowhere near the place of pulling. The same occurs with pushing, any force internally or externally that pushes on the fascial structure will translate and transmit force throughout the whole. Tom Myers, in his work Anatomy Trains, sheds light on the structure and function of the fascial sheaths and is a work worth studying if you want to learn more about the patterns of fascia and its functional effects in the human body.
Fascia is also important in action. Whereas before, forces were applied TO the body, fascia gives the body the ability to transmit forces OUT through its interaction with the muscles and the nervous system. By providing a structural boundary, the force occurring during contraction can be transmitted with equal and opposite force out to the world, without the boundary, the muscles are a river running in streams with no direction.
The fascial system is at optimal function when the balance of tension in the body is transmitted in such a way that the body can return to its natural resting state. The resting state is not static, it is constantly dynamic, but it is a state that can be at rest no matter what it is doing, or can return to its rest state when the activity is done. If there is excessive tension through physical. mental, emotional stress, and I believe even through spiritual transitions of awakening, the fascial body would benefit from other forces to help it return to its optimal tension state.
Having worked with chronic myofascial pain as a physical therapist over the last 15 years, I have found that the most damage we can do to someone needing to heal is to reduce, categorize and compartmentalize injury. Having said that and this is the great paradox of healing, if the body is damaged in some way or has excessive tension over a period of time, such as in people with chronic pain, external boundaries need to be given as a supplement to the actual fascial system. This may seem strange, how can something external such as mental boundaries of thought, or emotional boundaries to acting out and drama based behavior, help to heal the physical structure of fascia?
From a structural perspective, if you were to consider that all fascia in the body is interconnected, from the deep fascia of the brain tissue to the fascia of the spinal cord to the deep muscles all the way to the superficial fascia of the skin, we could see that anything that generates nervous system impulses can generate fascial tension or contraction.This tension can in turn effect the histological and chemical reactions at the cellular level and at the more global level, the organs and muscular tissue.
This chronic tension is most evident in patients with post traumatic stress disorder. Early childhood trauma, trauma during war or during situations out of our control can effect the mind, the body, the emotions and the spirit. When we can release some of this tension, very often memories, the reactions to the memories and our beliefs made about ourselves come out. Through talking out these patterns of external and internal patterns of tension with fascial movement, the body is able to come back to a new type of resting state resulting in greater efficiency and joy.
Where I find this chronic tension has its greatest impact is at the spiritual level. James Oschman, a research scientist who through his investigation of the fascial system and it’s relation to energy dynamics, has postulated the fascia as the great connector between the flow of energy of the body and the universal flow of all things. I can only say that chronic tension held in place through the interaction of the fascia and the muscles, can also amazingly enough hold actual memories of past or current life events. The fascia appears to hold a boundary or wall against something that can potentially harm the overall system. Working in concert with the nervous system, this creates a type of hyper vigilance in the reptilian or lower brain that causes unconscious acting out or conscious acting out with painful consequences.
I think of fascia as I do with every structure, and every system including the human body and other organized system in the outer world to have its own frequency. When the fascial frequency is entrained with a memory or a fear, this creates a barrier, although well meaning from a survival standpoint, to protect the overall system. Unfortunately our connections to external input through the sensory system, our inner wisdom and a larger outer wisdom can become distorted and altered. We become adrift in an ocean of information that can make the world and transition disorienting and overwhelming. It is not to say the fascia is a be all and end all, but it certainly plays an important role in communication between the world and the inner, a parent of sorts providing a barrier to what can be overwhelming in the outer world.
So what can be done? How do we maintain an efficient system that needs constant tension to be at ease? What is healthy constant tension?
To restate its function, fascia provides a containment and communication to balance with the forces of life…linear movement and non linear movement, the outer and the inner world, and the impulses of acting out and keeping in.
Related to movement, I have found that the balance between creative expression and what engages the right brain, namely non linear movement is absolutely essential to the maintenance of healthy fascia. Having said that, the structure of yoga physical asanas, positive thinking and outward focused activities of service also are essential, a type of engagement of the left brain. Said another way, I would say incorporating male and female aspects of thought, flow and movement are all necessary, one does not trounce the other, however care must be given to meet the person where they are to meet the imbalance of disharmony of the system.
Related to touch, tissues have their own type of movement at the cellular and multicellular level. A conversation needs to be set up to bring up what is occurring with the tissue to bring harmony back. This can occur through gentle hands on movement with the direction of the fascia as well as against the fascia in the direction of the line of pull. It can also occur with a very sensitive touch to a localized area with visualization and actual palpation of the cell. While that seems unlikely to the left brain logic of thinking, a conversation can and does occur where energy can be directed excessively to a cell to impact healing.
From an energetic level, healing of the energy blueprint is also essential. We come with a blueprint of energy from which our physical body is made manifest. When we can hone in on the breaks in the system through the chakras and nadis and their connection to the fascia healing can occur on a multidimensional level.