Releasing Muscular Tension

Having to hunker down at home opens up a space for activities such as exploring ideokinesis in ‘constructive rest position’, a term that I learned from my mentor Irene Dowd many years ago. This may be very useful to offer to your students at this time – both for re-patterning movement and releasing excessive muscular tension.

I learned about ideokinesis, which is envisioning a specific action or line of movement happening in the body without actually moving the body. We did ideokinesis lying on our back with our knees bent, feet slightly apart so the knees fell towards each other (I prefer to simply place my lower leg on a coffee table or over a bolster) and hands resting by our side or resting on our abdomen.

The guided ideokinesis clip below has the focus of asking the muscles to get into the state of no-work, or neutral. It starts off with a quick explanation and then goes into a guided visualization of about 18 minutes.

Hoping that you and your students might find this useful in this stressful time! We need to arm our toolkits with many different strategies as you never know which one is going to be effective for our students (and ourselves). Try it – and if you are so inclined share your comments below.

To your success! Deborah

Guided Ideokinesis by Deborah Vogel

Real or Imagined?

I got a great question from a reader who wanted to understand better the phrase I have used many times…. “The brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined”.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into this. I was trained to use ideokinesis to change neuromuscular pathways. The reason why we move is that the brain sends a message through the nervous system to the muscles – they contract – and create movement. There is always cortical involvement in movement – always.

When a person has a spinal cord injury their brain is functioning, but the message isn’t getting through the nervous system to the muscles because of the injury at the spinal cord.

Ideokinesis (ideo… idea or image, kinesis… muscle) is just a fancy way of using your imagination, envisioning or using visualization and/or intentions. It doesn’t really matter what you call it – the response is the same.

There is much research out there showing that if you envision making a free throw in proper form, it will help your accuracy. Research at the Cleveland Clinic showed that subjects that imagined doing biceps strengtheners in fact tested stronger at the end of the study – and kept their results for 3 weeks. This was strengthening through thought alone!

Now… I am not promoting that we train our dancers by having them imagine class instead of taking class. But those who have to sit out because of injury or health reasons would do well to envision themselves doing the class even though they are resting on the side lines.

What we are thinking influences our emotional/chemical responses in our body… all the time! Similar to how our movement carves well-known neurological paths in the brain so we can move in the right way when we hear 2 demi plies then a grand… our thinking also carves neurological pathways and patterns in the brain. For example, there are certain negative (and positive) experiences from my past that if I allow myself to ruminate about will begin to shift my emotions.

As I think about a past experience it brings with it all the emotions I hard-wired with it. September 11th is one of those experiences. I can describe in exquisite detail where I was when I learned about the attack and if I continue to remember I can easily bring up the emotions that are connected with that day.

When we are envisioning or imagining a situation… our brain doesn’t know that it isn’t real in that moment… and sends out corresponding chemicals (our emotional responses) as if it was.

If it was a significant past experience the emotional charge will be stronger than remembering an event such as going out to dinner with friends, that may not be as noteworthy emotionally.

The power of the body/brain connection comes from when we are conscious of our responses and can make choices about what we want to do in response to the information the brain has gathered.

For example, if I can catch myself starting to feel my blood boil when I remember a confrontation I had (in the past) and how it is negatively influencing how I feel in the present moment (sitting at my desk) — then I can make a choice to switch my thinking and consequently switch off the stress response that happening.

Being aware that we have the ultimate responsibility and accountability for our thought patterns and habits is empowering! Not always easy to do but definitely a skill that should be encouraged.

The brain doesn’t distinguish between what is real (in the present moment) from what you are imagining (from the past or future). It responds to what you are thinking…. period. It responds by creating chemicals which get sent into the body (aka your emotions) which influences the health and well-being of our body.

I do think it is important to acknowledge that we get into patterns of thinking and feeling that become so ingrained into our lives that we aren’t even aware that we are responding by default – or in other words – the same way we always have responded – no matter whether it is healthy or an unhealthy response.

This is what I meant by the brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Hoping that helps clarify…

To your success,

Deborah

The Skinny on Shin Splints

Shin splints are an equal opportunity injury – not just a runner’s injury, but very common to dancers too! 

In dancers, pronation, awkward foot/ankle alignment and tibial stress fractures are often offered as the reason for shin splints.  What is universally accepted is that shin splints are an overuse syndrome.  In other words, excessive loading to the tibia (shin bone) more than it can handle. 

Anytime a dancer starts feeling shin pain and it is getting worse with activity it is an indicator they should get to the doctors and get checked out.  Don’t try to keep working through the pain unless you want to risk increasing your rehab time.  You need a proper diagnosis. Is it stress fracture, compartment syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome or myofascial trigger points? All will present with shin pain.  

The doctor I worked for had a cool way (even if a bit unscientific) to check for stress fractures when a dancer came in with shin pain.  He had a tuning fork that he would hit on the edge of the table then place on the shin bone.  If the vibration of the tuning fork created pain in one specific spot he would suspect a stress fracture.  Remember stress fractures don’t immediately show up on x-rays until bone growth/healing has started.  Pretty cool, eh? 

The type of shin splints that are felt in the upper/front part of your shin are often caused by the anterior tibialis muscle being overworked.  I felt this area when I first got back to hiking up and down some rocky areas and took me a few days and working every night on massaging the trigger points before it went away totally.  

With that type of shin pain you’ll often find a tender spot on the upper third of the anterior tibialis muscle.  You can rub gently to release it, put the sore spot against the edge of a chair or on a pinkie ball or foam roller and imagine the tension slowly melting away.  The goal is not to create pain – the goal is to work with the discomfort and feel it letting go.  Often finding the sore spot and then doing 10 foot circles in each direction will help mobilize the tissue.  It should feel looser and more relaxed afterwards… and if you don’t re-injure the muscle by overworking it again the next day, you should feel as if you are on the road to recovery.  

Other areas of shin pain, deep between the bones or the lower part of the shin area will require more extensive rehab and rehab should be guided by your PT or doctor. Trying to release any muscular soreness as described above typically won’t make it worse, but it might not make it better either – which is why you want to get shin splints properly diagnosed and not just ‘push through the pain!’  You need to correct any faulty alignment and respect the pain. 

Bottom line… the longer you try to keep dancing/jumping/running with shin splints… the longer it may take to recover.  Having shin splints doesn’t mean that you have to become a couch potato and not exercise – but you do have to allow the tissue that is loudly talking to you to heal. 

To your success, 

Deborah 

New Pointe Shoes!

I recently got my first pair of pointe shoes! Do you have any tips for what to practice, getting better, and staying safe on them?

Love getting questions from student dancers! Thanks, A. for writing to me. I’m sure your teacher will be guiding you on how to break in your shoes and giving you some exercises at the barre.

Let me give you a few additional tips. First… balance…balance…balance flat-footed in your pointe shoes. Having pointe shoes on is very different than soft slippers. Occasionally put them on at home and stand in good alignment in parallel, first position, and on one foot. You can do other things while you are balancing, brush your hair, your teeth, stand while chatting to a family member, etc. You want to get familiar with your pointe shoes – and it is very important that you practice in good alignment and with the weight being centered correctly on your foot.

Getting better at pointe and staying safe with them is a function of your muscular balance and strength. You need strong intrinsic muscles (these are the muscles in your foot. You don’t want to be a toe gripper or scrunch your toes under when pointing. Long strong toes and arch muscles are key.

There are many exercises for strengthening the muscles of the foot such as playing the piano with your toes, and doming and/or pointing the foot without letting the toes curl.

Make sure your calf muscles are also strong enough to keep you pulled up out of the pointe shoe. Can you easily do 25 one-legged rélevés in parallel? Here’s a great article about the Australian Ballet company’s focus on strength over stretch.

Slow motion walking in demi pointe is a great exercise for your calf muscles as well as your balance. Do it barefoot first, then in your soft slippers, then in your pointe shoes (on demi pointe) Don’t do slow motion walking on pointe until your teacher gives you the go ahead.

It’s really exciting to get your first pair of pointe shoes and I love that you are wanting to work correctly and safely. Thanks for reaching out!

To your success,

Deborah

Working with Plantar Fasciitis

The last newsletter looked at plantar fasciitis from different perspectives.  Click here to read if you missed it.  

Today’s newsletter is about treatment considerations and suggestions.  You’ve got a diagnosis from the doctor or physical therapist, and hopefully also had a good alignment analysis to see if there are any biomechanics issues at play.  Follow your practitioner’s treatment protocols, and perhaps you’ll find a few other suggestions from the list below that may help!  

Rest: Stopping the overuse syndrome of plantar fasciitis is tricky.  It’s hard to not be on your feet! Rest may mean a couple of days or even up to a week or more away from the activities that irritate the plantar fascia.  Dancing or teaching and then icing and doing ‘good’ things for your feet isn’t the same as really truly taking time away from weight bearing activities.  At times doctors will recommend a walking boot that helps keep stress off of the plantar fascia.  Wearing the boot doesn’t give permission to still be on your feet for 10 hours a day without concern.  My point is REST is IMPORTANT.  This is the one area that if properly utilized can really make a difference.  Not sure whether that means a few days or a few weeks – that is dependent on each case, but you can cross train in ways that don’t irritate your foot.  Swimming, Pilates, etc. are all good alternative activities to keep in shape.  When you are coming off the rest cycle – you have to ease back into your activity.  You can’t just jump back into class and undo all your good rest efforts!

First thing AM: Warm up your ankle and foot if possible before taking those first few steps in the morning.  Put your feet into shoes or slippers with an arch support instead of walking barefoot to the bathroom.

Icing: Can be very helpful in the beginning of plantar fasciitis and for decreasing pain. (Temporarily numbing the pain.)

Contrasting cold and hot water: There isn’t a lot of research showing contrasting water baths is spot on for plantar fasciitis, but on the other hand doing contrast baths is a very gentle way to give your tissues a workout.   It can help improve circulation around the injuries tissue and is a cheap and easy process to try.  Do 3-6 alternations between heat and cooling.  Two minutes of heat, and then 1 minute of cool, repeat 2 more times (ending with the cool/cold)

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs: They don’t have a lot of evidence of being a successful treatment, even though they are commonly prescribed for plantar fasciitis.  There is some evidence that using NSAIDs compromise or retard long-term tissue healing. (1)  Instead, ask your doctor about using Voltaren Gel instead of ibuprofen.  This is an NSAID in a tube, and you rub it on the affected spot and it is absorbed through the skin.  It is commonly used for arthritis pain (first heard about it when my dad was prescribed it for a bad shoulder). It seems promising for arthritic pain (helped my dad for sure) and best case scenario it could provide some pain relief with lower risks of side effects compared to other anti-inflammatory medication.  You do need a prescription for it.

Massage: While massage will not change the plantar fascia directly, it can go a long way in helping to ease tension and stress in the calf muscles.  Sometimes there are even areas above the knee that seemingly help release the pull from plantar fasciitis (hip area, hamstrings, etc.) Feels good – and as we know – the muscles are connected facially to each other and makes sense that releasing tension in one area may help one stand more efficiently on your feet.  

Stretching: You’ll want to stretch both the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles of the calf. That means you’ll do both straight and bent kneed calf stretches.  If you can flex (dorsiflex) your toes at the same time you’ll get a pull into the arch as well.  I didn’t know about the yoga stretch called broken toe pose before doing my research, but some people felt it got into the arch and plantar fascia area better.  Try it and see if the 2 feet feel different.  Mine did… and while I don’t have plantar fasciitis I’m going to keep playing with this stretch to see if I can even out the flexibility of my toes.

Strengthening: There is some promising research that strengthening the calf may decrease pain of fasciitis even faster than stretching (2) The heel rises that were used were NOT rélevés.  Place your forefoot on a thick book and put a towel under the toes (that are on the book) This places a small pull on the plantar fascia.  Start on 2 feet and don’t go up to the toes, bringing the heel above the toe height should be enough and don’t overdo.  

Hopefully, there are a few ideas that you can try.  Let me know your results and what has helped you if you have successfully rehabbed from plantar fasciitis.  I’ll share your stories with other teachers that may be struggling currently with this issue. 

To your success,

Deborah

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1320354/

(2) Rathleff MS, Mølgaard CM, Fredberg U, et al. High-load strength training improves outcome in patients with plantar fasciitis: A randomized controlled trial with 12-month follow-up. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Jun;25(3):e292–300. 

Breathing

Arthritis and Dance

Just finished 3 workshops in October and had such wonderful interactions with amazing teachers! So many great questions were asked and today’s newsletter was inspired by one of them (Thanks, Donna!)

We were discussing stiffness, fascia and came around to arthritis when I made a comment about how doctors throw out that diagnosis way too often for people over the age of 50 – and how I considered it a garbage pail diagnosis. Meaning… it doesn’t really tell you much about what to do – why you might have it and can it be reversed.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis and probably followed by rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease where the immune system begins attacking the joint lining, causing pain and swelling that eventually results in bone and joint deformity. My mother and maternal grandmother had severe RA – and to be honest – they both strongly influenced my desire to be healthy with full mobility. Both of these strong women became totally bedridden. Some of the things I will mention in this article could be helpful with someone with RA or one of the many other types of arthritis – but what I want to address is the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the wear and tear degeneration of joint cartilage and bones. It causes pain and stiffness and is often first diagnosed in middle age. I’ve talked with numerous… a LOT… of dance teachers who were given the diagnosis of osteoarthritis even without the benefit of x-ray or MRI confirmations. The teacher goes in with complaints of stiffness or pain at the hip or knee, and comes out with a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medication and told to keep moving until the pain is too much at which time a joint replacement can be considered.

I want to address suggestions for this type of arthritis from a voice of reason. It’s how I like to approach working with someone’s chronic injury. How many different ways can health be positively influenced?

Dancing along with many other sport forms asks a lot of the body! What we know is that when the body is anatomically aligned the weight is appropriately transferred through the centers of the joints. This is why it is uber important that our students learn how to work their turnout accurately in the hip joint rather than pushing rotation, tucking under, shifting the head of the femur up against the cartilage of the joint where joint disfiguration will occur.

But it isn’t just how they are working their rotation in class it’s even more about their daily standing, walking, sitting and sleeping patterns that can plant the seeds (or not) towards future osteoarthritis. Alignment matters… and even more so outside of class! (note the image on the right is not well-aligned, lots of people typically stand on one leg and unknowingly influence their fascia, their muscles and joints!)

All types of arthritis have an inflammatory factor. What are ways to decrease inflammation in the joint? We just talked about having good structural alignment as the first focus. Secondly, I would look to food to try and decrease inflammation. I have never been an advocate as a one-size-fits-all approach to food. We have different chemistries and respond differently to food. Some people can eat bread – and others are better off being gluten free, which then can decrease inflammation.

Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are definitely high up on the inflammatory food charts along with artificial trans fats, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, processed meat. There is a reason that when I worked at the Center for Dance Medicine we would see a spike in achey bodies and joints in January after holiday food splurging.

It’s all about balance, right? For most people it doesn’t mean you can’t ever have chocolate, but it shouldn’t be the top food group you take in to fuel your body. Inflammation doesn’t just happen at your joints, but also in your gut. I recently did a gut test (viome.com) to look at what good and bad bacteria was in my gut and found out one of my inflammatory foods is coffee. (imagine a very sad face:) Now I have a cup of coffee maybe once a month, rather than my one cup a day… and yes… I notice a difference in my gut health. The test also encouraged me towards certain foods to get a better balance and population of certain probiotics, so it wasn’t quite as simple as taking one food out of my daily diet.

It takes time for inflammation to decrease. Besides becoming aware of the food (fuel) you are ingesting, getting good exercise for yourself (beyond teaching class) losing weight if need be, and managing stress (which means getting an appropriate amount of sleep too!) all will influence inflammation.

I want to add one more suggestion and that is to keep your fascia in good condition, elastic and responsive. To that end, proper alignment is key, but we also need to maintain the resiliency of our fascia, so that we don’t start feeling stiff and sore.

When I get the occasional bloodwork done I ask if I can add testing my C-Reactive protein level. This protein increases as inflammation increases. If you find that you are on the high side, even without physical ailments, it would be a good choice to lower the silent increase of inflammation before it shows up in some physical or physiological disorder or disease. Inflammation is connected with many diseases, not just arthritis.

And all inflammation isn’t bad… the inflammation that occurs after an injury is a good thing and a part of the healing process. But chronic inflammation is NOT helpful or useful.

So there you go… I’m probably preaching to the choir on this one… but thought it might be interesting to look at arthritis from a broader perspective of how to change the health of our joints.

To your success!

Deborah

Extreme Stretching

Hi Deb!I have been following your work for some time. I have a 13 year old daughter who has always been very flexible. She has been dancing since she was 3. Last October, a teacher pulled on her leg while she was in an extreme position. She was lying on her belly and the teacher brought her leg over her head and pulled it to the floor in front of her head. She suffered an acute injury to her hip flexor. The MRI was negative for a labral tear and he also noted that she has a nice, deep hip socket. It took many months of physical therapy to recover from the injury and she was out of dance for 5 months. She is now back to dance, but still experiences some tightness in her hamstrings and snapping hip syndrome. Her doctor said it is the iliopsoas tendon snapping over the bone and she should continue to work on strengthening. With her being back in dance, I am worried about overstretching and some of the extreme positions that are prevalent in dance today such as, oversplits, scorpions and needles. I have told my daughter that she should not participate in oversplits with her legs up on blocks or other extreme positions. I believe the risks outweigh the benefits and I want her to be able to have longevity in dance. Yet, these things are being taught and encouraged at her dance school. My questions are, should I be concerned about the extreme poses? Are they even necessary for a career in dance? Am I wrong to tell her to not participate in overstretching and extreme hyper-extended positions?

Long post alert! And yay! for being a concerned parent! Onto your questions…

Should I be concerned about the extreme poses? Yes! You should. There is more more scientific and medical research these days that we can base our dance training on. The last few posts I’ve talked about fascia and a few tips to training and conditioning your fascia. Our children’s fascia is much more resilient than an adult’s. This is good because it also means it is more adaptable to change when done in an anatomically responsible way.

Having an outside force (such as a teacher) pull or put strain on a muscle that is not prepared for that force can easily injure a dancer. You daughter was lucky that she didn’t also end up with a lower back injury along with the hip flexor injury. A story that will always stick with me is working with a gorgeous dancer who while dancing professionally in Europe went to a yoga class where the yoga teacher firmly pressed her folded knees into her chest trying to deepen hip flexion and ‘release’ tension. What he did was to injure the bursa and gave her hip flexor bursitis, which took over a year to heal – which meant no dancing.

Oversplits – pros and cons. Warning… way more cons than pros. First, research, and more research, have shown that oversplits can change the angle of the thigh bone in the joint potentially tearing cartilage. We hear about torn labrums, which is cartilage that deepens the ‘bowl’ of the joint. So good that your daughter’s labrum was not damaged – and the hip flexor muscles took the force of the movement and tore first. If you had a very very flexible young dancer, the force may have gone straight into the joint area.

Teachers need to remember that the growth plates of their younger students may still be open. It has been stated that soccer players and gymnasts suffer the most amount of ischial apophysis which is a very bad hamstring tear where it attaches to the sits bone and fractures the growth plate. Hmm… I wonder if dance was considered a sport if it would have been on that list too?

We also know that if you maintain the muscles on such an extreme passive stretch for longer than 30 seconds you are decreasing its strength. (in other words, don’t passively stretch before class – do it after class when you can then rest and recover) You may also be putting strain on the ligaments which may loosen them and decrease their effectiveness at keeping stability at the joint. Ligaments tie bones together and are considered inelastic. This means if you sprain the ligaments around your ankle, for example, they will never be able to stabilize the joint in the same way and the muscles will have to take over stabilizing as well as moving.

Hormonal challenges. I reached out to my colleague, Anneliese Burns Wilson to ask about the influence of hormones on adolescent stretching. She wrote “The general consensus is that the injury rates are the highest when the hormones are in the transitional periods.” (Deb’s note… Going into adolescence would certainly be a hormonal transitional period)

Anneliese: “Exposure to estrogen structurally changes the structure of collagen based connective tissue (make up, fiber diameter and production / absorption ratios).  This would include tendons, ligaments, fascia. Estrogen receptors are found in skeletal muscles, tendons and ligaments. Pelvic floor muscles are affected by estrogen levels.  Since these muscles help to stabilize the pelvis and SI joints from the inside, it is generally accepted that there is some loss of stabilization throughout the menstrual cycle in this area.  It is also important to note that pelvic floor muscles have an attachment to the the fascia of some of the external rotators of the hip.” (FYI, Anneliese is working on a series of books on strategies to optimize training for dancers from childhood through adolescence. (abcfordance.com)

I did not know until I had a conversation with Anneliese that the stabilization influence of the pelvic floor muscles may vary during the menstrual cycle. That doesn’t mean that we can’t stretch, train, dance, etc. etc. throughout the month, but when it comes to those extreme stretch positions why not err on the side of caution and not ask our preteen students to work in extreme stretch positions. There are ways to increase flexibility without the potential of joint/muscle injury.

It appears that I’m on a fascial kick lately… but frankly… when you want to increase flexibility and can effectively figure out where restrictions may be coming from that are keeping you from the desired goal… That just seems like the smarter way to train! And also… faster… since you won’t keep stretching the same muscle over and over again in the same way even when you are aren’t seeing improvement. That is the very definition of insanity.

As teachers we need to stay open to the fact that the science of dance training, of medicine, physical therapy, etc. is constantly changing. I know that my stretching protocols have changed significantly over the years. That’s real – doesn’t mean that if I’m a RAD or Cecchetti or Limon teacher that I’m going to throw away my teachers manual – of course not! I’m simply going to continue to deepen and integrate knowledge about anatomy and movement into the multitude of ways to train technique. There is no right way for everyone. Different bodies… different methods and processes… let’s expand our tool kits for supporting our students.

Are extreme positions even necessary for a career in dance? I’ll let Baryshikov answer that:)

pintaram post on instagram

‘Fuzz’ Fascia

In the last newsletter I encouraged dancers to spend some time yawning and stretching into stiff areas on a daily basis.  This week’s newsletter explains why that is so important.  Gil Hedley, Phd. is known for his ‘fuzz’ talk. (embedded below)  Before you watch it let me help explain a few concepts.  When he is talking about ‘fuzz’, he’s talking about the fascia that surrounds muscles and other tissues.  This wet membranous fascia allows tissues to slide and glide over one another. Elasticity is a very important component to fascia and that certainly influences our flexibility.  

Last week we talked about sore muscles that were all of a sudden moved in ways they hadn’t over the summer break, and creating soreness.  When this ‘fuzz’ isn’t mobilized and hydrated (more through movement, although water intake is important) – it begins to adhere and stiffen.  It ‘ages’ the fascia so to speak, similar to how many people stop moving and start sitting more in their middle years and then believe that the stiffness is an accepted side effect of aging.  NOT TRUE! If you continue to keep your fascia in good shape, elastic, toned, responsive – your body will not move like an older person – and I have to believe it makes a big difference in how you feel too! 

Please send in your questions about fascia, technique, training and recovery – or share your comments below.  Upcoming workshops are open for registration! Canada, Seattle, and Costa Rica.  

note: there are a few cadaver images within the short 5 minute clip to show you what this ‘fuzz’ looks like.  I find it very helpful to see how immersed and connected fascia is to the muscles.  

To your success!
Deborah 

 

Classes started… and I’m sore!

Dancers LOVE to stretch… it feels good… we need flexible and strong bodies… and everybody thinks of stretching in terms of muscles. Most know that each muscle is wrapped in fascia, which is also called connective tissue. Did you know that each muscle bundle and each muscle fiber is also enveloped by fascia?

Yup! That’s a lot of fascia!

Dancers are returning to classes after summer break and there are many of them that are going to be sore after the first class or two back.

That soreness is often called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS for short. You feel great in class, but the next day or even two days later your muscles ACHE! It used to be said that it was caused by an increase of lactic acid but lactic acid is reduced fairly quickly in the body while muscle aches can last for days.

This soreness is coming from doing an activity that your body isn’t ready for – like being out of shape or away from class and then jumping back in full tilt boogie:) It can involve eccentric contractions which is contracting a muscle while it is being lengthened. It can also come after trying a new movement pattern that that the body isn’t trained for (yet). DOMS goes away typically within a few days, and the next time you go to do the activity it feels better. You are conditioning your muscles AND fascia:)

Research suggests that it’s the fascia that has been strained rather than the muscle fibers. In fact – the number of pain sensors is far greater in fascia than in muscle. Fascia can be inflamed, stiffen up, dry up and wreck havoc with our movement. Remember the post about the lumbar fascia, which is a key player in lower back pain, stiffens up and looses mobility? You can rewatch the 2 clips of healthy lumbar fascia vs lumbar fascia from someone with lower back pain.

Fascia likes being stretched across multiple joints, as fascia connects and weaves long lines of muscles through the body. This is why when you roll a ball under your foot, your hamstrings might feel looser on that side. The hamstrings and the bottom of your feet are connected through the fascia. Often a solution to a flexibility problem may be far away from the targeted challenge area.

Fascia also responds to dynamic stretching. An example of a dynamic hamstring stretch I love is placing my foot on a chair in front of me. I then contract my quads on the leg that is being stretched and shift my sits bone backwards as if I was sticking my pelvis out. Keeping the quads contracted you can slowly and gently flex at the hip until you have a strong yet not painful stretching sensation. If you let go of the quad contraction you will lose the effectiveness of this stretch.



A nice way to get ready for class is to do a few jumping jacks, or brisk walk around the studio and then take a few minutes to roll on the pinkie ball or foam roller followed by lying on the floor and stretching your body as if you were just getting out of bed and yawning and stretching. Twist and bend your body in as many ways as possible and wake up those long lines of fascial connections.

If you live in Canada you might consider coming one of the workshops I’ll be offering on Anatomy of Technique: A Fascial Perspective where we will dive deep into looking at technique through the lens of fascia. Space is limited and they are happening in October!

To your success!

Deborah