Fascia is a Latin word meaning “band,” “swathe,” or “ribbon.” It is derived from the word fascis, meaning “bundle.”
When referring to the human anatomy or yoga, it means the connective tissue of cord-like fibres made mostly from collagen that surrounds muscles, organs, and other structures in the body.
Fascia Deep Dive
Fascia is everywhere in our bodies, and understanding it is crucial in seeing the body as an organic and intricately connected whole, rather than an agglomeration of disassociated parts – muscle, bones, organs, etc.
Fascia is the meshwork, the fibrous and gel-like stuff between all your cells that cushions and holds it all in place. But it does more than just provide internal structure. Sometimes described as simultaneously filmy and gluey substance, its ability to hold fluid allows muscles and other moving parts to slide smoothly. It also gives your blood vessels and nerves a protective enfoldment. And some of it is able to store and discharge elastic potential energy.
Fascia consists of multiple layers of tissue. While it is made mostly of collagens, it also includes elastin, reticulin, fibrocytes, fibroblasts, telocytes, propriosensors, nociceptors and more.
There are three types of fascia:
1) Superficial Fascia
This layer generally exists under your skin, on the outermost parts of your body. It is thicker in your middle regions like your stomach and chest, and thins out towards your extremities. It provides the wrapping for lymph, nerves, and blood vessels and is effective at insulating and storing fat and water.
2) Visceral / Subserous Fascia
This is the layer that surrounds and holds organs in place, so it’s less stretchable. There are two layers of visceral fascia. The first includes all the fascia closest to the individual organ, and the second includes all the fibrous sheets forming the compartments for the organs and connecting the internal organs to the musculoskeletal system.
3) Deep Fascia
This layer mainly surrounds bone, and covers and separates muscles, but it also covers nerves and blood vessels.
Healthy fascia is slick, and stretches with you as you move. When it’s unhealthy, however, it tends to be tighter, drier, thicker, and gummier. It can tighten around muscles, limiting mobility and causing painful adhesions that may become trigger points over time – unless action is taken.
Common problems with fascia include:
Myofascial pain syndrome
This occurs when the fascia surrounding your muscles has become chronically tight or damaged. It is often caused by repeated motion, or tightness from stress, and involves one or more trigger points. It may last a long time, and there are many possible causes.
This is when the thick layer of fascia connecting your heel with your toes becomes damaged and/or inflamed. Repeated strain can cause very small tears. It may present as intense heel pain, or tightness on the bottom of your feet when you wake up in the morning, or after long periods being off your feet.
Fascia In Your Life
Fascia matters. Yes, it can become too rigid or too loose and prolong and exacerbate injury and pain. But there’s more.
It may be a lesser-known organ of communication.
Its prevalence and interconnectedness in the human body is well-known, but some postulate that it is also the richest sense organ for sensing our own body.
Fascia seems to be reading your body – and telling you the story – by doing three amazing things:
Proprioception – It allows you to sense and register your own movement.
Nociception – It allows you to feel pain and is the primary trigger for a response.
Interoception – It can sense the internal state of your body, including organ function, and the way you feel your own breathing and heartbeat. It can even sense the autonomic nervous system activity (unconscious physiological processes) related to your emotions.
How can you thank it?
Yoga, of course. Talk to your yoga teacher or consult with a professional about which type might be right for you. Learn about counterposes. And focus on bending the spine all six ways: forward bend, backbend, twist to each side, and bend to each side. No yoga session is complete without these six bends!
There’s also heat therapy, foam rolling, acupuncture, and massage.
Otherwise, simply remember to keep moving, keep stretching, and focus on your posture. Fascia is more than along for the ride on your yoga journey – it’s telling you part of the story.
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