How this unknown sensory organ can make your body feel years younger

If you were asked to make a prediction about the age of someone from behind or from the side, you’d likely be basing your guess on posture. How straight up or how hunched over they stood when they walked. Did they pick their feet up off the floor gingerly, or were they shuffling? Were they limping or walking with ease? If you were to watch my 74 year old yoga teacher walk from behind, you’d think he was in his thirties. Why? Because he is very limber. Besides being thin and having an obviously muscular frame, his posture is straight, he is light on his feet and has a quickness in his step that is clear he doesn’t have any pain. How is this man different from most? And how can you feel more like him? My new obsession is …

FASCIA. It’s the invisible fabric of our bodies that gives us our shape. It’s that thin almost transparent white coating you sometimes see on a chicken breast. Very tough to separate and cut through. Without it, we would be a puddle of bones, muscle, tendons, ligaments, organs and tissues on the floor. Literally. It determines our posture, how loose or stiff our joints are, how wrinkled our faces look, how much pain we experience and many other things. It has more sensory receptors than our skin. It is considered our largest sensory organ. And the crazy thing about it is that it cannot be seen on imaging. So oftentimes pain is attributed to whatever they can see on imaging, like a bulging disc, but often, it’s the fascia and if it were released, and the bone or muscle given space, the pain would disappear. No other treatment required.

I was 27 and in my second year of naturopathic medical school when I had my first experience with fascia (pronounced – fa-sha). I was taking a massage class and was required to have a professional massage. I made an appointment with my teacher. She did something called myo-fascial release. It seemed like she was doing random movements with my head and arm. It didn’t hurt or feel like much of anything. But when I left her office I had a realization. The slouching that I had become so accustomed to when I was growing up had actually become the shape of my body. It was my fascia that was holding me in that position. My body was stuck in a permanent slouch.

Unless I was playing sports – being tall when I was growing up did not feel like an advantage. So I would always contort my body to make myself shorter to chat with my friends on the way home from school, or make myself shorter than some boy that I liked at the time. Slouching became a habit, and became the more natural way to stand. And then every once in a while, someone would tell me to, “Stand up straight!” But it always felt like a huge effort, and unless I was thinking about it, it just didn’t happen. After the massage with my teacher, I went to the grocery store and realized as I was walking around that I felt much taller. My posture was straight without any effort. And that became the natural way that I stood. I was shocked and fascinated all at once. I always kept this experience in the back of my mind as something to later explore.

About 2 weeks ago, a friend invited me to a class where we were shown how to release fascia and open joints. It was fascinating – the teacher asked my friend what had happened to her ankles when she reported that she had a chronically tight neck. She explained that because fascia wraps its way around everything, that if it was tight in some location in our body it could pull on a completely different area making it chronically tight. She said that if you have a sore wrist – don’t look at the wrist, look at the areas around the wrist and distant to the wrist and release them – often the wrist pain will just disappear.

So – if you release fascia in your feet, ankles, knees and hips, you’ll see a huge ripple effect of change in your body. You may see yourself standing taller, having less pain and stiffness, having more bounce in your step and feeling younger. Become friends with this word, FASCIA, if you pay attention to it, it will change your life.