You may have heard a recent buzz phrase: “Fascia is the New Black”.
Fascia is a collagenous connective tissue that runs throughout our bodies. Every muscle fiber and muscle bundle in your body is coated with fascia. The fatty layer beneath your skin is fascia. Tendons, which connect muscle to bone, and ligaments, which attach bone to bone, are fascia. Fascia coats your bones and sleeves your organs. It is everywhere in your body, but it is not the sum of all these separate parts—it is a single fibrous matrix that interconnects you head-to-toe. Fascia is the soft tissue scaffolding of your body, and if we stripped away all other tissues in your body we’d be left with an aqueous, webbed network that would be immediately identifiable as you.
Historically, fascia was stripped away to study more “important” things like muscles, but research in the past 10+ years has shown that fascia actually is a powerful sensory organ that helps us move, stabilize and propriocept our positioning in space. When it’s healthy, fascia supports free movement of our bodies. When it becomes dysfunctional, as it can from long periods spent sitting or looking downward at our devices (and for many other reasons), knots and adhesions can restrict movement and cause pain. Over time fascia will actually adapt to the shape in which it is most often positioned. Self-myofascial release is one way of helping to release and remodel your fascia on biochemical and biomechanical levels, creating an opportunity to integrate new, healthier movement patterns.
My favorite tool to mobilize connective tissue throughout the body is Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls, which students get to use with me and other teachers in YogaWorks’ Yoga Tune Up® classes and workshops. The little rubber balls put the power of massage and healing in your own hands, and when students get a taste of them they usually are as hooked as I was when I first used them! Massage with the therapy balls helps to relieve pain and mobilize “stuck” areas of your body, while also creating mental and physiological down-regulation and increasing your sense of your body and its positioning in space.
A great massage for tech neck is this neck and upper back therapy ball massage sequence demonstrated by Jill Miller, the creator of Yoga Tune Up®. It hits a lot of areas that are chronically tight on most of us, and I do variations of it almost daily.
Another great tech neck reliever is this suboccipital therapy ball massage. The suboccipitals are tiny muscles that run from the base of the back of the skull to the first two neck vertebrae, and as you can imagine they get really strained when our head is regularly positioned forward of neutral. Aside from helping to relieve tension and pain this massage also is incredibly relaxing. I recommend taking 5-10 minutes to do this massage. In addition to what Jill shows in the clip, you can slowly trace a little infinity symbol in the air with your nose for a minute or two (a sideways figure-eight shape), reversing directions when you feel ready.
Part I: Ergonomics
Part II: Posture
Part III: Salabhasana Variations
Part IV: Self-Massage with Yoga Tune Up Balls
Part V: Therapeutic Corrective Exercises
Part VI: Take Breaks