March 11, 2014

I am a Yoga Astronaut: 10 Mistakes We Can Avoid in Teaching Yoga. ~ Kirstie Bender Segarra

Sleeping in Space

Part 8: Training and nurturing the fascial net to heal our bodies.

For more:

I am a Yoga Astronaut! (part 1)

I am a Yoga Astronaut! (part 2)

I am a Yoga Astronaut! (part 3)

I am a Yoga Astronaut: Primary Curves and Neutral (part 4)

I am a Yoga Astronaut: All Cues Are Wrong (part 5)

I am a Yoga Astronaut: Fascinated with Fascia (part 6)

I am a Yoga Astronaut: Fascia and Pain (part 7)

I am a little obsessed on the fascial front due to its importance in healing our bodies. The fascia is often left out of most articles, medical research and anatomical pieces I read. It is inherently frustrating since I have experienced first hand how important training and nurturing the fascial net is to healing our bodies.

I love teaching yoga and training yoga teachers. Every semester, I take the opportunity to show how important fascia is and how to apply our knowledge of fascia toward an asana practice through the myofascial meridians. Students still struggle in how to apply it to teaching yoga.

Here are some of the common mistakes we making teaching yoga and movement therapy when we want to include the fascia.

1. We forget to slow down.

Fascia changes under slow consistent pressure and tears if it is shifted to fast—like ripping a plastic bag.  This is how most injuries happen! We tear the fascia.

2. We teach in parts, instead of wholes.

We have a tendency to say blah blah lengthens the hamstrings, etc. Fascia doesn’t work in neat little parts. Movement moves laterally, diagonally and vertically through the different interconnected levels of fascia. We have to let go of the old paradigm of anatomy and physiology that has done a great job of dissecting things into pieces.

3. We don’t load our tendons.

If you don’t load the tendons, which are fascia, for some of your asana, you are not training spring and length in your stretch. Think of how healthy curly hair springs back when you pull it—fascia is similar. For example, in a right seated twist, reach back to a wall with your right hand and press into the wall as you twist. This loads the bicep tendon and trains it to handle load and spring back. You can add muscle energy techniques by inhaling while pressing into the wall, exhaling and relax the muscles then repeat.

4. Our sequences don’t change.

To truly train fascia, you have to change what you teach in order to address the different myofascial meridians. One day you might focus on the superficial front line and another the deep front line. In fact, doing something badly and out of alignment can be good for training fascia. This allows us to be more playful and not bring to much rigidity to our practice.

5. We only do yoga.

Get off your mat to do cardio. The research shows that you do have to do something else to increase your cardio training. Yes, you can do a lot of sun salutations and power yoga, which may increase your VO2 load to 7-12%. You will get more done for your circulatory system with other training. So go for a fast walk, run, cycle or hike to counter balance your yoga training.

6. We don’t cross-train.

We do have to do strength training. To train the circumferential fascia, the sock of fascia around the individual muscles, you either need to use your body as if you are lifting weights, as in TRX, or go to the gym and lift weights. This can be done through asana with care, because repetition does lead to injury.

7. We don’t breath.

Of course, in practicing asana we train our breath with the movement which helps calm our nervous system. The pranayama techniques also slow down our metabolic system.

8. We don’t drink water and rest.

Yes, you still need to hydrate. When we exercise, the water is squeezed out of the tissue, and when we rest after exercise, our tissues rehydrate.

9. You skipped corpse pose or meditation.

This is when we reconnect the three holistic systems of the body—nervous, circulatory and fascial. Take the time to reintegrate and find your resting postures.

10. We forget to have fun!

Yoga should be fun, allow space to giggle, smile and embrace our dyslexia when we call out right when we mean left. Let these vibrations fill up your fascia and sensory nerves—some of the sensory nerves (mechanoreceptors) love vibration.

Learning to shift your fascial body by correctly stretching and practicing yoga in the new paradigm of “spatial medicine” will allow us to create more space in our bodies and free ourselves from pain so we have the freedom to be fascial yoga astronauts!

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Editorial Assistant: Tifany Lee/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Flickr Commons

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Kirstie Bender Segarra