Muscles and Fascia
In Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) we say we are a motor (movement) system with sensory feedback. The motor system uses sensory feedback to organize, direct, course-correct, and perform motor (movement) functions including walking, eating, talking, expressing emotional reactions, sitting down, getting up from sitting, and much, much, much more.
What is our largest and richest sensory organ? Is it our skin, eyes, ears, balance system (vestibular system)? In fact, it is our muscular system with its related fascia. “Our central nervous system receives its greatest amount of sensory nerves from our myofascial tissues.” (Fascial mechanoreceptors and their potential role in deep tissue manipulation. Excerpt from: Schleip R. 2003: Fascial Plasticity - a new neurobiological explanation. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 7 (2): 104-106 and 7 (1):11-19.)
What is fascia? So much could be said about fascia. The following is mostly a quote from Wikipedia, just to give you some definition. A fascia (Latin - band) is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. Fascia is classified by layer, as superficial fascia, deep fascia, and visceral or parietal fascia, or by its function and anatomical location. Like ligaments, aponeuroses, and tendons, fascia is made up of fibrous connective tissue containing closely packed bundles of collagen fibers oriented in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull. Fascia is consequently flexible and able to resist great unidirectional tension forces until the wavy pattern of fibers has been straightened out by the pulling force. These collagen fibers are produced by fibroblasts located within the fascia. Deane Juhan describes the collagen networks from which fascia is made, as a global matrix, that “gives shape and coherence to every single part of us.” (Connective Tissue: Web of Structure, Web of Ch’i, May 2015 article sent by email).
When we move our body, or when we are moved by someone else, we generate a global bodily effect - to a greater or lesser extent - on muscles, tendons, bones, joints, ligaments, skin, fascia, nervous system, blood and lymph circulation, and more. In other words, when we contract muscles to make a movement or apply a bodywork technique to a muscle/muscle group, we are automatically involving all the soft tissue (tendon, ligament, joint capsule, skin, etc…) related to that muscle, including the fascia. The same is true when we are applying a movement or bodywork technique to the fascia; we are automatically effecting the related muscle/muscle group. Muscle and fascia are inseparable.
For example, we may be targeting the release of shoulder tension by focusing on the “upper trapezius.” However, we are never working with just one muscle. There is a wide-spread, intricately interwoven effect that encompasses related muscles and all their fascial connections with many bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, fluid circulation, center of gravity, base of support, and more. Most of us practicing any form of therapeutic somatic movement or bodywork modality have heard clients say the equivalent of, “Wow, I feel that shoulder release all the way into my ankles.”
Is the upper trapezius “connected” to my ankles? If you felt release and increased function in your ankles by working with releasing shoulder pain and tension, then, yes, in your body their is that connection! Looking at the body globally as a web of interconnection, each of us habituate various tension patterns that can influence a cascade of neuro-muscular-fascial-skeletal relationships throughout our body, from head to toe.
The take home message is we all need to move our bodies to stay healthy. In Hanna Somatics we encourage you to include daily movements done slowly, comfortably, and with awareness, using your motor cortex to reset and release excess tension in your neuro-musculo-fascial-skeletal system. This has a global positive effect on your body pain and tension, stress level, and well being.