Fascia: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How We Use It in Pilates
WHAT IS FASCIA?
Fascia is a fibrous type of connective tissue in the human body that preserves physical shape by enclosing discrete elements such as organs and muscles. It exists throughout the entire body. In fact, the deepest layer encloses every single cell!
FASCIA CREATES FORM IN THE HUMAN BODY
Fascia can be found throughout the muscle tissue, encasing bands of muscle and enveloping the entire muscle and its tendon. It also exists directly underneath the skin, functioning like a final envelope around the entire body. In other words, fascia creates both separation of body parts and unity of the whole body. Without fascia, our body wouldn’t be able to hold its shape. We’d slide off our skeletons!
FASCIA AND MOVEMENT
Healthy fascia allows the muscles, organs, nerves, and blood vessels to slide along each other, essentially allowing the body to move without falling apart. To effectively fulfill this role, fascia needs to be both structural and mobile. It needs movement to stay hydrated and flexible. In the absence of movement, fascia becomes dry, hard, and stiff. It then begins to inhibit movement. Lack of movement creates more lack of movement, and the cycle continues! Fascia can also become rigid from injury, years of moving inefficiently, and not moving enough.
Recognizing the presence of fascia and understanding its role in the body are essential in the practice of Pilates. Through the use of soft rollers and balls, fluid full-body movement, and kinetic imagery, fascia can be softened and hydrated so it can function at its best.
Fascia, along with muscle, creates long myofascial bands that can be traced from head to foot. This concept is very important to movement educators as we use these vertical meridians to assess alignment and identify imbalances.
For example, the underneath of your foot (plantar fascia) can promote flexibility up the posterior myofascial chain to the low back and sometimes even to the head and face. If you’ve tried rolling the bottom of your foot on a pinky ball, you may have observed this holistic effect.
Additionally, movement educators use the knowledge of myofascial lines to create movement cues that engage the entire body, giving the students a sense of physical wholeness. For example, when instructing a side bend, a student may be asked to sense the stretch not just through the ribs and waist but also from the edge of the foot all the way to the back of the palm. This kind of attention builds full-body awareness and can “rewire” mind-body connections to improve functional coordination.
Learning about fascia helps us to understand that the body doesn’t only work as a mechanical set of levers and pulleys. The biomechanical body can be a useful construct, but a more inclusive model takes into account the holistic unifying force of fascia.
Maintaining healthy fascia is important and easy. You just have to move fully every day and practice mind-body techniques such as Pilates to exercise your proprioception and kinesthetic awareness.
To learn more about Fascia and how to optimize your movement potential contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Halle Clarke NCPT is a 2nd generation master teacher having studied closely with two of the great NYC protégés of Joseph Pilates: Kathy Grant and Romana Krysanowska. Halle opened Mongoose Bodyworks, a boutique Pilates Studio in New York City in 1999 .
As well as training in Pilates Halle has pursued studies in ideokensiology, anatomy , biomechanics, muscle energy technique, trigger point therapy ,neuromuscular re-patterning, Alexander technique, The Feldenkrais Method, Polartity therapy and Cranio-Sacral Therapy. She has additional certifications from the PMA-CPT and ACE. Halle integrates all of her extensive studies of the body into her work as a New York based Pilates Instructor and Teacher Trainer.
She has been conducting Pilates Teacher Trainings for Balanced Body since 2006 both in New York and around the country. Halle has taught Master Pilates classes nationally and internationally, including at The PMA Conference and Mind Body Expo.