What is Fascia?
Fascia has become a popular word today in conversations about health.
Fascia, a form of connective tissue, is central to our posture and movement. Fascia wraps around each muscle, bone, and organ and plays an essential role in organizing our structure in the gravitational field. It is also an integral part of each cell in the body.
Cut an orange in half. The orange-colored outside part is similar to our skin. The soft yellow substance beneath the skin is like the superficial fascia of the body. Each segment of the orange is covered with a membrane much like the deeper fascial coverings of our muscles, bones, and organs.
Dr. Ida P. Rolf
Dr. Rolf was a biochemist and one of the first to recognize the importance of fascia, “the organ of structure.” Dr. Rolf’s unique contribution was to look at how one’s structure and its components are organized in gravity and she developed a method for practitioners to improve these relationships. Fascia plays an essential role in how humans are organized in gravity. Rolfing balances the tensions in the fascial network, providing a path to improve those relationships. She observed:
- The body has many segments – head, torso, pelvis, etc.
- When these segments are vertically aligned with the head over the shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle – the body is supported by the gravitational field.
- When the structure is well aligned in gravity, it functions well.
- When the segments are not in good vertical alignment, the body works hard to overcome the force of gravity.
- The body and its segments are held together by fascia, a fibrous web “packing” material.
- Fascial restriction in one area of the body may affect the function of other areas of the body.
Fascia Has Two Primary Components:
- Collagen Fibers
- Ground Substance
The collagen fibers within the fascia are a colloid. Mechanical forces can impact these fibers:
- Chronic tension on the collagen fibers in the fascia can shorten, harden, and disorganize the structure.
- By adding physical energy, fascia can also be lengthened, become more elastic, and improve the structural pattern.
Posture – It’s About Relationships
So, when we talk about our posture and alignment (structure), we are talking about the relationship between the body segments. Ideally, these segments are well aligned in the gravitational field, and our organism moves with efficiency and ease.
A Rolfer is trained to see how an organism is organized in the field of gravity and see how the body is out of alignment. Then, they carefully and selectively use pressure through their hands. The pressure allows fascial shortenings to lengthen, and become more elastic.
As chronic shortenings in the fascial network are released, the body has an opportunity to move to a more ordered pattern.
Fascia is all about structure, and structure is about relationships. When the structure is well aligned, the body segments work together within the gravitational field.
Patients commonly report using foam rollers, and fascia blasters to ease muscle tension and soreness. They often ask us how effective these products are and how can one improve their fascial health. Foam rollers and fascia blasters may offer temporary relief to aches and pains but generally do not create balance within the fascial network.
Dr. Rolf’s vision was informed by studies with osteopaths and yogis.
These disciplines also work on the alignment of the structure to improve its function.