Fascia is another name for a specific type of Connective tissue that is all throughout the body. It is the strong and elastic collagen based substance that is our tendons and ligaments, that penetrates and surrounds our muscle cells and fibers. It surrounds and penetrates our nerves, it holds our organs in place and even covers our bones. It acts like a webbing that holds our shape. We sometimes call it the Organ of Form in the body. Holding us in our recognisable form.
Addressing this substance in a manual therapy treatment is the way to reform, or re-pattern the posture of the body. Our Posture is simply defined as the “shapes you most commonly use in your life” and as we use these shapes so often, our webbing of fascia forms to hold us in that shape, (this saves our muscles from having to do the constant, repeated effort, day to day).
Fascia has long been the “Cinderella Tissue” of the body. Always labouring away in the background, but historically not well understood and so, largely overlooked. We are generally much more aware of what muscles, tendons, bones, veins, nerves and other anatomical structures are. Dr Ida P Rolf, the revolutionary founder of the Rolfing® – Structural Integration started pointing to our need to understand how to work with the fascias of the body as early as the 1950’s when she was developing her work. She somehow understood the way that this substance, Fascia, holds us in our habitual shapes and she developed a way to address it and mold its shape to help the person find and carry a harmonious balance of tensions in their body.
Since the last 25 years, research on the functions of fascia in the body have been much more prolific and now we are more aware of why this substance is so important to understand if we want to get a holistic picture of how the human being operates and functions in the world and how to best help relieve chronic pain, correct postural dysfunction, and how to live more efficiently and openly in the world. For more information on this research, please see the website of one of the chief researchers of Fascia, Dr Robert Schleip (https://www.somatics.de/en) and of the Fascia Research Society. (https://fasciaresearchsociety.org/)
Dr Ida P. Rolf
The genius of Dr Rolf was not only her ability to see how these fascias are involved in holding our compensatory postural shapes, but also in her understanding that if a human being is to live a fully embodied, aligned and healthy life, physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually, finding a way to physically find ones center is the key. We are upright mammals, balancing on our two relatively small feet, facing our soft and vulnerable underbelly and throat to the world. Most Mammals move on all fours, protecting their sensitive places in the posture they hold. We, facing the world with our weakest parts, rely on connection and trust with our peers and families to co-exist in this world, in showing our most sensitive places, we rely on trust with our community to work together to continue living and evolving. All this vulnerability sets the stage for us to shrink and protect our throats and our bellies, when our environment is unsafe. This can lead to many issues such as depression and anxiety.
The way that I understand and work with the body in the process of Rolfing, is to help each individual find balance and support on the ground through their feet, and an ability to find an easy alignment of their body on top of their feet with a functional core activation to most efficiently allow them the capacity to interact with the world. When we come across somebody who is well balanced and at ease in their body, we have a feeling that we can trust them and be at ease in their presence. Trust in our world is key to communication and honest communication is key for peace and collaboration.
We are all able to be our best when we are not merely struggling with our own survival. When we can have an easy way of being in our body we then can have a clear view of the world around us.