Attend a yoga class and chances are you will hear your teacher say, "Create space! Open your heart! Let go!" I was gravely mistaken to think that this these were a metaphor; a closer study of the body’s anatomy reveals that this is exactly what you are doing when you do yoga: creating space, opening, and letting go. For those who have never taken a yoga anatomy class, or prefer to practice yoga in a more secular setting, let’s explore (yet another favorite invitation of yoga teachers).
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? If you’re an animal, you stretch. If you’re a human, you likely hit the snooze button on your alarm clock or head into the kitchen for a cup of coffee – but what you should do is stretch. Those stiff muscles feel great when they’re stretched out, and for good reason: we are meant to move.
Fascia is connective tissue that’s found all over the body. Western science and medicine has largely ignored the role of the fascia in good health; but because it’s found literally head to toe, (and because yogis examine everything), the functions of fascia merit a closer investigation.
Healthy fascia, composed of layers of collagen and elastin, is smooth and slippery, so that it can “glide” and move. When your muscles are stiff, it’s because something is causing the fascia to meet resistance. That something is “the fuzz”, which is actually the growth of sticky cobweb-like collagen fibers that solidify the muscle, making movement difficult. This fuzz forms during periods of long inactivity, such as when we are sleeping, watching a movie, on a long car trip, or when we don’t exercise. As the fuzz builds up and knits together, what was once muscle stiffness can turn to a limited range of motion.