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Fascinated by Fascia

In order to provide the best possible instruction, all of the instructors at Zenergy are committed to continual learning and growth. Even though Pilates is not new, there is always new science and research that can bring deeper levels of understanding to why we do some of the things we do as Pilates practitioners. This past Friday, Lyndsey, Angie, & Dena attended a workshop called “Facets of Fascia.” We were fascinated to learn about what fascia is and how it works. But most importantly, we learned how the work we do in our Pilates practice is influenced by -- and can affect change -- in our fascia.

What is fascia and why is it gaining importance within the medical & movement communities? According to Merriam Webster, fascia is “a sheet of connective tissue covering or binding together body structures (such as muscles).” Fascia connects and communicates with all the other systems in your body. As an organ of form, fascia forms based on what we “ask” it to do. Why is it so important to get up often when you sit for long periods, like in front of a computer? Because fascia responds to static body positions and forms to those shapes. For example, a dowager’s hump can form as a woman ages to build additional strength to support her head in a forward position.

Fascia is related to another concept called “biotensegrity.” Traditional anatomy illustrates a human body as a building, with the bones as the framing and the muscles and skin as the covering. Consider the geodesic dome, invented by famous architect Buckminster Fuller and patented in 1954. The dome concept is based on balancing compression and tension forces in buildings. Modern anatomy compares our bodies to the geodesic dome model based on tensegrity. Rather than bones with tissues draped over them, our bones are floating in a tensional structure composed of fascia. The bones push out and the fascia pulls in, creating a balance that distributes force and strain throughout the entire structure.

What does this mean to our Pilates practice? Instead of thinking in mechanical terms of movement, let’s explore the tensegrity model. If we look at an exercise like Leg Pull Front Support (aka, “Plank”) through a mechanical lens, we are supporting our body weight on our hands and feet. This puts a lot of pressure on the wrists, chest, and shoulders. Think of the exercise in the tensegrity model: move your bones outward to expand in all directions and recruit every muscle in your body to distribute the work load throughout your entire body. Reach your head and your tailbone away from each other, lift the front side of your body up to support the back side of your body, and expand through your shoulders and hips. Voila, an almost effortless position!

We’ll be exploring some other aspects of fascia in the next few blog posts. Special thanks to Nancy Hurd for hosting the workshop and Laura Hampton for her insightful information.

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