Sunday, August 23, 2009

163/234 More on Connective Tissue

Saturday 9:30 am with Connease

The pattern of resting the knee one day and going to class is still helping, but I'm starting to get anxious about skipping so many days. I know there's nothing wrong with it, but I feel a bit odd on my days off.

I saw big improvements again in class. I did a full set of Triangle. The lunge on the right side was just a bit off, and I was very wary about balance one I tipped my arms. But at least it was possible again. Even more amazing, I did a set of Eagle, keeping my right knee bent somewhat and trying to wrap the left over. Now, the only pose which I fail to attempt is Toe Stand. I'm still not 100% by any means, but the recovery seems to be proceeding faster than I anticipated.

I came across something new in the first standing backbend. At the start, we are supposed to drop the head back and let it relax. Ordinarily, I just relax and let the head fall back some. Yesterday, I not only relaxed the head, but also something in my upper spine sort of between my shoulders, so the dropping back came from a bit lower down than usual. I don't really know what I did, but thats pretty much what it felt like. And it seemed to get much more of a bend in my cervical spine than usual. It also got much more of a stretch in the muscles under my shoulders near my armpits (maybe the deltoids?). Does this make sense to anyone? If so, have I stumbled on something that's good, or am I compromising the intended form? I'm going to ask a teacher in my next class, but I'm happy to get anyone elses input as well.

The day 229 revisits the idea of connective tissue. First, Gates says that the connective tissue in our bodies is all of a piece. Remove everything else, and you would still have a structure that resembled the body itself. Then, he says that main function of asana practice is to expand the connective tissue -- all of it. After it expands, it then contracts again, but doesn't fall back into the same rut that it was stuck in. It stays somewhat expanded.

I like the description, but I don't actually know if its true. It sounds a bit like the "tourniquet" theory we hear all the time in Bikram. It's another theory to explain some of the benefits of asana practice, but as far as I know, there's no proof for it.

This makes me wonder what the point of these theories is. The asana practice works. If you want proof, try it. It's so much easier to prove that asanas work than it is trying to explain how or why they work. With the idea of expanding connective tissue -- maybe thats so for the flexy poses, but what about the strength oriented poses? And what about the Bikram poses that are aimed at compressing the spine and choking the throat to get at the thyroid? Every pose in the Bikram series has some stretching in it as well, even if its only a part of the set-up. But stretching is only a part of each pose. With the exception of Fixed Firm, every pose in the Bikram series also has a strengthening element. The idea of expanding the connective tissue as the main focus of asana practice, it seems to me, neglects the strength and balance aspects of the poses, unless I'm missing something.


thedancingj said...

Oooooooh, FASCIA. When I was trying to understand fasica a bit (which I still DON'T, not fully), I went on wikipedia and found this definition: "Fascia is an uninterrupted, three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior." Doesn't that sound familiar? It's DIALOGUE - "All over, inside out, bones to skin, fingertips to toes." Bikram yoga is ALL ABOUT the fascia.

Here's the main point I've taken so far from the fascia talk, which I think may be what you are after. The fascia is basically where your "muscle memory" lives, in the most literal sense. When you undergo trauma - maybe a physical injury, like breaking a leg, or maybe an emotional injury, like longtime abuse - the fascia is the deep muscle fiber that actually contracts in response, sometimes from an exterior stimulus, sometimes from a "fight or flight" kind of adrenal response. When contraction persists, new adhesions are built up in the fascia which restrict its movement. And of course, anything that affects the fascia has a ripple effect on the rest of your body. So the injury actually imprints itself and stays in your body.

THAT'S why fascial release is important. All those 20-year-old injuries that magically heal themselves after a couple months of yoga? That's from fascial release. All of the stress that's physically stored in your body that seems to be released during yoga practice? THAT'S fascial release too.

Or at least that's the theory, as best as I understand it. And you know, I haven't seen it PROVEN... but I think I buy it. :)

Duffy Pratt said...

Thanks j. I may be testing the "fascia" theory another way. I'm thinking about doing the Rolfing series. The whole idea is to do deep tissue work to help re-align or release the fascia. And yes, I've read some about it too, and I don't really understand it either.

Mei said...

Very interesting theory! I am just wondering how "emotional" scars cause fascia and how those icky emotional releases [crying, whimpering, laughing, etc] help loosen up the body.

Er, not quite sure if anyone understands where I'm getting at.