The Shape of your Cup

Winter is on its way, the season of snugly, warm jerseys, thick socks and layers of loose clothes which allow me to let my tummy hang out without anyone being able to see it. It is a time to curl up on the sofa with a book, to be languid and lazy and self-indulgent. The importance of building our energy for the distant seasons of spring and summer cannot be denied, but there is a price to be paid if we are not careful. The curling up, the sitting, the bending of our elbows and knees to conserve heat, inevitably results in feelings of tightness which gets worse with age. So what exactly causes these rusted feelings?

In a word… fascia, also known as connective tissue. My favourite analogy is that of an orange. The orange has its skin on the outside and segments on the inside. Each segment is divided into tiny cells filled with the delicious nectar we call orange juice. In a way, we are not too different from an orange. We too have skin on the outside. Inside we have our fascia or connective tissue. Instead of thinking of your muscles and bones being connected by fascia, think of fascia as the pockets which contain every muscle, nerve, bone and organ, much like the cells of an orange. Fascia quite literally gives the cup that is us, shape. Over years we all take on a distinctive shape, depending on our perception of our environment, our habits and our lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle, involving long periods of sitting in front of a computer or behind the steering wheel of a car, will result in tightening and thickening of the fascia. This feels like you are wearing clothes which are a size or two too small. The clothing restricts your movement so that you can’t quite reach those shoe laces and your clothes cut into you and block you from reaching the top shelf. The more frequently you adopt a particular position, the more permanent that shape will become. Your muscles are encased in fascia so if the fascia is tight, the muscle cannot stretch to its full potential. The sensations you feel when stretching, the rusted feelings, come not from muscle, but from the fascia.

Unlike an inanimate cup, your fascia is very much alive and constantly remodels itself. It has far more proprioceptors than muscle and it can react to a threat five times faster than the nervous system. It is the fascia which causes us to pull away from the pain of a needle prick or to brace when we trip. We literally pull ourselves together under stress, tightening the fascia as we go into the fight or flight response to danger, real or perceived. Fascia is a continuous web, much like a spider web, which distorts when one part is pulled. Like a spider web, restriction in one part of the fascia affects the whole web and may result in pain or discomfort somewhere else in the body.

As you know, it is impossible to separate the mental, emotional and physical aspects of our being. Fascia is no different. I find Rebalancing Deep Tissue massage to help tremendously with physical discomfort. My clients all report feeling better, looser, more comfortable after a massage.  But the fascia also carries and stores emotion and it’s not unusual for the massage to trigger an emotional release which may or may not be the cause of physical discomfort in the body. The combined effect of pressure and touch, together with a safe, warm atmosphere, allows the neurology to relax into a parasympathetic state. Blood pressure will drop, heart rate and respiration slow down and cortisol levels may also drop. You feel relaxed and calm, anxiety levels lower and tension seems to melt away.

When it comes to lowering stress levels this winter, Rebalancing Deep Tissue Massage is a wonderful option, no matter what the shape of your cup or the weather outside.

Until next time, and for the sake of your fascia… Keep Moving.