Fascia is like Saran Wrap for our guts: It's a fibrous matrix that holds the bones, muscles, organs, and nerves and helps keep our physical shape. Without it, we'd be lumpier, flimsier, and less contained and connected versions of ourselves.
In that way, fascia is like our invisible second skin. It's not part of the dermis but rather connects to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons at thousands of different points of contact. It's the ultimate communicator, taking inputs from one part of the body and reacting accordingly in another. Although there is very little research on fascia as we're just beginning to understand its role in the body, there are a few leading philosophies that guide much of the bodywork that's done today. In fact, a good deal of the literature on fascia is written for the trade: massage therapists, personal trainers, body workers, Pilates instructors, yoga teachers, and other movement professionals, which is why reading up on it can feel overwhelming, foreign, and/or unapproachable to the average Josie.
The good news is that whether you know it or not, you've been working on your fascia ever since you started to exercise. The fascia isn't new unto itself; it's the way we're looking at it that's new: as a body system that has major implications for our physical and emotional well-being.
While some will say that taking care of your fascia is optional and nonessential, we've heard it's pretty important. "If you look at the last 500 years of literature in Western anatomy, it is the one major body system that hasn’t really been studied," said Thomas W. Myers, author of the seminal text Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists and arguably the leading expert on fascia in America. Myers has studied directly with Drs. Ida Rolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, and Buckminster Fuller and has been practicing integrative manual therapy for 40 years, leading him to create the most in-depth education programming for movement professionals. "Fascia is the environment for all the other 'stuff' that goes on in the body. At first, it was viewed as the packing material and didn't have much importance. Every once in a while you'd hear something about the plantar fascia or something specific, but now people are seeing it as a system that provides context for all other body activities. It is the biological fabric that holds us together."
Using Anatomy Trains and Myers as a reference unless otherwise noted, here are nine things you need to know about fascia: