A Myofascial Approach to StretchingNovember 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Complementary Care, Performance and Fitness, Wellness Industry | 2 Comments
Tags: Myofascial Release, myofascial release stretching, Self Care, Stretching
(Guest Blog Post from Jessica Queller Katz, CMBT, Birth Doula – Essence Myofascial Wellness Center)
In my practice I treat men, women, and children of all ages and fitness levels. For many of them, running is a part of their cardiovascular exercise, ranging from the occasional jog to marathons. I am frequently asked about the most effective method of stretching. There are many benefits of stretching for everyone on a daily basis. If running or jogging is part of your fitness regimen, it is very important to practice effective stretching practices that will enhance your performance and protect your body from injury.
Traditional stretching or static stretching involves holding a pose (i.e. leaning forward to touch your toes) for a period of time, usually 15-30 seconds. Often the results we feel from static stretching are only temporary. Many times you hear people say they stretch every day, but are still tight, in pain, and getting injured. This is due in part to static stretches not being held long enough to release restrictions that may have formed in the collagen fibers of our connective tissues, also called fascia.
Fascia is composed of three parts:
1. Elastin- The elastic fibers that allow tissue to resume shape after stretching or contracting
2. Collagen- The extremely tough fibers that coil around the elastic fibers in a wavy configuration to support the structure and prevent from overstretching
3. Ground Substance – The gel-like component that transports metabolic material and fluids throughout the body
Every muscle fiber has a fascial binding, thereby linking them functionally. If the fascia becomes restricted from inflammation, trauma, repetitive stress, or poor posture, the ground substance solidifies to protect the structure from becoming more stressed or strained, much like scar tissue. This hardening prevents muscle fibers from gliding freely within themselves and with other structures like tendons and ligaments. Because fascia surrounds and connects EVERY structure and cell of our body, not just muscles, there can be increased tension on nerves, veins, and blood vessels. This is why nerve pain and poor circulation can occur with muscle tightness.
Integrating a Myofascial approach to daily stretching can increase range of motion and release restrictions in ALL components of fascia. This will allow the ground substance to re-hydrate and return to its fluid-like state so muscles can function at optimal strength with the rest of the body.
Myofascial Stretching can be practiced in 3 simple ways:
1. Time Element – Hold a stretch continuously for at least 90-120 seconds at a time, sometimes as long as 3-5 minutes. This is how long it takes for fascia to truly let go. Meet the stretch at its resistance and wait. Nature is a slow process as is our body. It takes time for change to occur.
2. Active Elongation – Use your body in a three-dimensional way. An example is when you wake up in the morning and stretch your body like a cat. Instead of hopping out of bed to rush for the day, take a few moments to follow the natural stretching your body does every morning. Feel how your entire body elongates and telescopes as one unit. I bet you finish feeling vibrant and energized!
3. Mindfulness – Be present throughout your stretching. Direct your attention into your body and breathe into areas that you feel need releasing. Take notice as tissue releases or when it is resisting. Do not force anything. Go slow and remain in a relaxed and centered state. Be patient and enjoy the time you are taking to care for yourself with as little distractions as possible.
Enjoy the new sense of ease with Myofascial Stretching. Always listen to your body and you will prevent many unnecessary injuries. Take notice of the changes you feel in your body by adding these simple principles into your daily routines. It’s time to take health and wellness to a new level!
Note: Myofascial techniques have been shown to improve athletic performance, flexibility, and range of motion, but they change the way you may be used to moving your body. If you are preparing for an upcoming competition or athletic event, please be aware of this and decide if it is best for you to start these techniques before or after the event.
Jessica is the Owner and Advanced Myofascial Release Therapist of Essence Myofascial Wellness Center in Tinton Falls, NJ. She has trained extensively with John Barnes and his team of expert therapists at their seminars and treatment centers and has been invited to attend recent seminars as an Assistant Instructor. She has over 300 hours of continuing education in this discipline. Her own healing has awakened her passion for pregnancy and childbirth which she now blends into her practice as a Labor Support Birth Doula.