One of the keys to having an efficient metabolism (which we all want, right!?), improving posture, and reducing pain and stress is by making sure your body is in correct alignment. Not only does this help with these ailments, but when your body is aligned, you’re much more likely to lose weight more efficiently, and keep it off. So where do you start when you want to achieve proper body alignment? It all starts with fascia – also known as connective tissue. This is a concept I cover more in-depth in my book, The Power Source, which offers a multisensory program to help you find alignment, strength, and flow in your own body.
Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that encases your body under your skin like a wetsuit and actually wraps itself around every muscle, joint, and organ. If you’ve ever cut into a piece of raw chicken or steak and seen that thin, white, filmy layer, then you’ve seen fascia.
Fascia: the “secret” organ
Medical science is finally catching on that fascia is a major player in every movement you make. The fascia is also where the nerves and lymph nodes lie–so it’s being referred to as a sensory organ.
While fascia is incredibly malleable and thin, it’s also largely responsible for the shape of our bodies. The amazing thing is that fascia is only now being medically recognized for its importance in maintaining a healthy, fit, toned, and aligned body. In fact, it wasn’t until 2007 that the first international Fascia Research Congress was held at Harvard Medical School, bringing a new awareness to the importance of the fascial webbing system.
How dense, blocked and dehydrated fascia can cause problems
Fascia can thicken and harden which can cause all sorts of structural and alignment issues in the body: when you have a stiff shoulder, for example, often it is not damage to the muscle that it causing it, but a hardening or thickening of the fascia around the shoulder muscles and joint.
Injuries, poor posture, poor flexibility, repetitive movements and the near-constant stress we seem to live under can pull the fascia into ingrained patterns and cause it to become dense and tight. Adhesions form within the stuck and blocked fascial tissue like snags in a sweater, and make our bodies feel heavy, thick, uncomfortable, and run down. The good news is that your fascia is incredibly malleable and has almost ridiculous self-healing abilities.
How healing fascia can help reshape your body
Fascia is critical because it actually helps to create the shape of our bodies. When it’s healthy, fascia is like clear saran wrap. Having healthy fascia is key to being in correct alignment, which helps you feel better overall, improve your posture, reduce chronic pain, and even handle stress better since rolling is relaxing and calms your nervous system which helps regulate our entire system.
One of the best ways to help heal the fascia is through rolling. The healing foam roller and other rolling tools help hydrate, release and restore the connective tissues in much the same way that a deep-tissue massage does.
Rolling regularly helps to ‘lubricate’ your joints, reduce inflammation and increase range of motion but it works wonders on fascia by smoothing the thickness and density that builds up in the connective tissue and brings hydration back into the fascia and allows energy to flow more fluidly. Think of fascia like a sponge. When the sponge is dried up it becomes brittle and stiff. But when you add water (hydration) to the sponge it becomes supple and stretchy again.
Another of my favorite tools for movement medicine and healing is my signature Body Sphere, which I created to help my clients use to massage and heal parts of the body that are harder to reach with foam rolling alone. The exercises below use the Body Sphere as a tool for a healing and “movement medicine” practice which will help combat the effects of stress on your fascia and therefore help you achieve correct alignment and a more efficient metabolism . You can find more detailed movement medicine and “stress hygiene” sequences like the one below in The Power Source.
Three Moves to Combat Stress and Activate the Deep Core
These exercises help massage the internal organs and help you relax. When incorporated into your routine on a regular basis, you can enjoy better digestion, alleviation of lower back pain, improved posture and a flatter belly. Rolling your belly with the soft Body Sphere also helps reduce anxiety, inflammation, and helps mobilize the fascia.
Belly Breathe with Control and Surrender
To begin, lie facedown, resting on your forearms with the Body Sphere (or another soft, squishy ball) placed under the center of your pubic bone. Take a few full breaths here to allow your body to relax and melt over the ball. This melting will release your sacrum, lower back, and organs. Once you have relaxed, inhale as you curl your tail under and exhale as you extend your tail back up. Repeat 8 times.
Lie face-down, resting on your forearms with the Body Sphere placed under your upper belly. Inhale as you roll down the entire front of your core to your pubic bone. Exhale as you roll back up to your starting position. Repeat this movement 8 times.
Sit with your tailbone on the Body Sphere, arms reaching behind you and palms on the floor. Inhale as you curl your tail under and roll the ball up your sacrum and lower back. Exhale as you roll the ball back down. Repeat this full series of movements 10 times.
Fascia, the Lymphatic System and Detoxification
The fascia is also key to detoxification since the lymph nodes are located within the fascial matrix. Rolling with a foam roller or on the Body Sphere improves circulation throughout your entire body which helps to oxygenate the blood, boost lymphatic drainage and flush toxins from the body. Toxins tend to get trapped in the fascia when the body gets out of alignment, causing tight and thick fascia tissue.
The lymphatic system is responsible for flushing the body’s toxins and is vital for a healthy immune system, overall health, and weight loss.
If you’ve ever had a massage and had the masseuse tell you to drink plenty of water after, that’s because the massage stimulates your lymphatic system, which is located in your fascia. This is similar to using a foam roller and the Body Sphere since it helps flush the lymphatic system in the same way. So in order to detox and support the lymphatic system (which is like your body’s garbage disposal) you have to work to stimulate it. One of the best ways to do this is by foam rolling, using tools like the Body Sphere, my other signature tools (or yes, getting a massage!). Since most people can’t afford daily massages, investing in a foam roller or a few other tools, and using them regularly will give you all of the same benefits of a massage, for a fraction of the price.
Article by Lauren Roxburgh. To learn more about how to support the fascia and lymphatic system, check out LaurenRoxburgh.com for resources, articles, and access to her online streaming platform, The Aligned Life Studio.
Photos by Annie McElwain Ainsely (all photos copyright 2018).