‘I had my fascia kneaded out like dough and this is what happened’

Hands up if you know where your fascia is… Anyone? Nope? Okay great, because neither did I. Truth be told, it’s a little complicated as far as anatomy goes. A fascia is actually a sheet of connective tissue made mostly from collagen that sits just under the skin and encases all of your muscles and internal organs. It has been described as a three-dimensional web that extends from head to toe through every structure. It’s probably the least known organ, and yet it plays a hugely important role in the human body. We can only move around because of our fascia. It allows the muscles, nerves, vessels and organs to slide and move with each other as we go about our business.

Lately it’s been receiving a lot of attention, largely in thanks to a story published by Goop called ‘Fascia: The Secret Organ’ which stipulated that with proper manipulation, you can extend and stretch your fascia to make your body longer and leaner. Furthermore, the article also suggested that we store trauma and stress in our fascia.

This isn’t without basis in fact. A clinical study from 2018 found that there was indeed a link between our emotional wellbeing and our fascial unity. ‘A dysfunction of the fascial system that is perpetuated in every-day movements can cause an emotional alteration of the person.’ But trauma? I was sceptical. Then an invitation arrived in my inbox to attend a ‘Roll & Release Fascia Workshop’ at Yogala in Sydney’s Maroubra. It promised better circulation, increased flexibility, a reduction in scar tissue and pain relief. I was in.

In summary, the two-hour long workshop felt like an intensive yin yoga class using Franklin Balls and other small equipment. It was often uncomfortable, and really got into the crux of many tension points. You could almost liken it to a self-inflicted deep tissue massage. Then at one point after working solidly on our right leg, our instructor Paola Raffinetti, who doubles as a Pilates and Yoga teacher, asked us to stand upright. I was shook. My whole body was off centre. It was like my right leg had suddenly grown two extra inches.

After the workshop, I sat down with Paolo and asked her about the fascia.

1. How can our fascial affect up day-to-day?

Its influence on our overall posture and movement patterns are vast, as it connects everything and greatly contributes to our form and physiological health. If you are sitting for long periods or doing repetitive actions which create certain patterns, some areas in this ‘connective web’ become tighter and other areas looser.

2. What is difference between a release/roll vs. a deep tissue massage?

Nothing replaces a massage by a highly skilled therapist, however, in using small pieces of equipment such as Franklin Balls, one learns where the tension areas are therefore creating more body awareness. It won’t get all the places a massage does, but it costs less and takes less time while still benefiting you.

3. What kind of benefits have you seen with clients after a Fascia Roll and Release session?

I’ve seen more range and ease in movement especially when combined with exercise such as Pilates, yoga, swimming, etc. Rolling out relieves symptoms. For example, clients with lower back pain often experience very tight gluteal (buttock) muscles. Releasing the gluteals can relieve the tension experienced in the lower back.

4. Why do you use small equipment rather than larger rolls?

The body can tense against harder objects such as a hard-spiky ball or foam roller. With tension, the benefit may be less. Have you ever been to a massage where you’ve felt you’re being pummelled, and you can’t relax? However, I believe in variety and still use the foam roller occasionally and in my workshops.

5. Can you talk me through a simple 10 minute roll that someone could easily do at the gym?

Foot massage

Standing, place a green textured Franklin Ball or a tennis ball under your right foot. Roll your foot forward and back on the ball. Begin with light pressure, eventually adding more if needed.

Benefits: Stimulates proprioception for balance. Especially great for runners.

Glute release

Lie on your back and place two green Textured Franklin Balls under your gluteals (buttocks), legs bent and together with feet on the ground. Tilt to the right ball, lifting your left hip off the other ball. You should feel a tender point under the right glute. Stay in the tilt to the right. Open and close your right leg 4-5 times. As you open and close, you’ll feel a massage around the right hip joint. Repeat on the other side.

Benefits: release lower back and hip tension. Creates freedom in the hip joint for walking, running, tennis, etc.

Subscapularis release

Lie down on the right side of your body with a green Textured Franklin Ball under the ribs close to the armpit and towards the side of your shoulder blade. Your right arm creates a pillow under your head. It can take a few goes to get it into the correct spot, you’ll know once you’ve got it as it can be very intense. Breathe and relax into it. Gently rock forward and back for about 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.

Benefits: release tension created by typing, using a computer mouse and smartphones.

Thoracic release

Lie down on your back with hands behind your head and legs bent and place two red Easy Grip Franklin Balls between the shoulder blades. Breathe in to flex the upper body forward and breathe out to arch the back, repeating 4-5 times. Adjust the balls higher up the spine by rolling forward slightly and repeat.

Benefits: reduces shoulder and neck tension.

Yogala applies the traditions of yoga to everyday lives, building strength and confidence in the everyday. Classes span from gentle meditation, to mellow, easy going movement classes, to more vigorous workouts – whatever your stage of life or state of mind, Yogala has an option for you.