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In a previous post ("Nurturing the Body's Fascia: Definitions") we defined "fascia" as the network of connective tissue that holds our organs and tissues together, protects our nervous system and helps us move in a harmonious way. Healthier fascia means better flexibility and mobility. This series will ultimately explore how Tai Chi and Qigong can help nurture the body's fascial tissues.
In this blog we will take a look at how the fascia gives shape to the body--and how new information about fascia changes our view of ourselves and how to care for our bodies.
The fascial web can be described as a tensegrity system. "Tensegrity" is a combination of "tension" and "integrity," and can be pictured as a structure of bones pushing out and creating tension in the body while the fascial tissues hold the bones together, pulling them in. There are many images of tensegrity on the internet, and it is fun to look at the principle from many perspectives such as the construction below by Marcello Pars from tensegrity.wikispaces.com. The wooden sticks represent the bones and the strings represent the fascia.
Here is a view in the shape of a human, done by Tom Flemmons (www.intensiondesigns.com)
Fascial tissues create the body's shape. If you remove all of the fascia from the body as a whole piece, it would be recognizable as the shape of the person. Here is an amazing picture of a fascial dissection of a female, done by Gil Hedley (www.gilhedley.com).
Seeing the whole "bag" of fascia all together may now help you make more sense of the idea of tensegrity. The body is still recognizable without the inner structure of bones. The bones fit inside the bag that holds them together. Furthermore, fascia makes a web throughout the body, surrounding muscles, organs and a multitude of structures within the body.
Contrast this picture of the body with more traditional views of the body as being composed of bones enwrapped with muscles and tendons. This type of picture is typical of those we have always seen in doctor's offices, textbooks, charts, and even on the sides of gym equipment.
Questions immediately begin to arise:
Why haven’t we seen these views of the human body before?
What have anatomists done with all of the fascia during dissections? Didn’t they see it? If so, what did they think about it?
How does getting a different picture affect the way we think about our bodies and how we interpret what is happening in them, including movement and sensations such as pain?
How does the idea of fascia and its pervasive nature in the body affect they way we care for our bodies, including the way we exercise?
Paradigm shift. The questions are endless. The shift in our paradigm of the nature of the body recalls the shift of thinking when Galileo’s telescope and observations deconstructed a falsely conceived universe in which the sun moved around the earth. A whole new universe opened up and raised questions about the place of human beings in the world and universe.
Those who study fascia think about a different paradigm within the universe of physical bodies, not just human bodies but animals as well. It is an exciting new world that is just now being opened up by research.
In future blogs we will continue our exploration of how new understandings about fascia can affect our thinking about ourselves and our everyday behaviors, including the way we exercise. The more I learn about fascia, the more I understand that Tai Chi is a great way to nurture the body’s fascia. The insights and wisdom of the ancient Chinese are being illuminated by modern research. That is an exciting idea for those of us promoting health and well being through these ancient arts.
My DVD, "New Creation Tai Chi-Qigong Muscle, Joint & Fascia Warm-Ups," brings ideas of fascia together with good everyday Tai Chi practice. Click here to purchase on Amazon.
Sources: Thomas W. Myers, Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists. Elsevier Ltd., New York, 2014. Also, Thomas Myers, "Fascial Fitness: Training in the Neuro-Myofascial Web," IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 8, Issue 4.
Have a great day!
Copyright by Anna York, 2016