If you've been to one of Miss Dani's dance classes over the past couple of weeks you'll know this word well - fascia. Students tend to know their muscles and bones well, most have good stretching routines BUT many do not know what fascia is or understand how it can affect their flexibility - in fact, many are decreasing their flexibility with some of their stretching techniques!
Bear with me while we set the scene with "technical" fascia talk.
WHAT IS FASCIA?
Imagine you are an orange - your skin is like the rind of the orange. So, if your skin is the outer layer of the orange peel, the thicker, white layer that lies beneath the peel would be your fascia. We all have a layer of fascia directly beneath the skin that completely envelopes the body, giving another protective barrier between the skin and the deeper soft tissue. Apparently, when you are born your fascia is all one piece? And then when we injure ourselves or pierce our ears, for example, we create tiny tears in our fascia and scar tissue.
FASCIA PAIN AND TIGHTNESS
Dancers can unnecessarily feel pain, tightness, and discomfort caused by tight fascia. Fascia can pull, twist, and compress the body into incorrect alignment. Fascial tension in areas such as the knee can cause tension or issues in other areas, such as the hip or ankle. Some common dance injuries you may have heard of like Plantar Fasciitis, IT Band Syndrome, or even just general knee pain can all be attributed to distortions in your fascia.
FASCIA AND FOAM ROLLERS
Foam rollers have become the trendy thing for dancers to use before class or competing and this is great because they are an excellent tool, however many dancers are using them incorrectly. Many dancers are taking their foam roller and targetting the hamstring for example. They get on the foam roller and then roll up and down and up and down continuously. Unfortunately, this is "glueing" the fascia to the muscle, creating more tightness. It's important if students are foam rolling that they trigger first by rolling until they find a tight spot, stop, gently push into the roller and then hold to allow it to release.
TEST YOUR FASCIA
Find out if your fascia is tight. Try touching your toes and take note of how far you can reach. Next, take a tennis ball and spend some time rolling out your feet. Now try touching your toes again...are you further? The plantar fascia at the bottom of the foot is connected to the fascia that runs up the backs of the legs, releasing fascia in the feet can actually increase flexibility in the hamstrings - mindblowing!
Fascia release is first achieved by flossing and then dynamic exercises. If you’ve achieved a fascial and not just muscular stretch, you may feel the stretch somewhere unexpected. A fascial stretch targeting tightness in the hamstring, for example, might be felt more along the calf, depending on the dancer’s body. With "regular" stretching, the student who is not naturally flexible may not see any results at all but with fascial release stretching, they are more likely to achieve their flexibility goals. We've been using fascial release exercises in our Stretch, Strength and Conditioning classes and I know our students have been blown away by their increase in flexibility from just 12 repetitions of a dynamic exercise - in fact, one student touched her toes for the first time EVER the other week!
So there is a bit of a science lesson for you today! Using fascial release I have seen the fasted SAFE flexibility results with our students - want to see if this will work for you? We would love for you to come and visit one of our Stretch, Strength and Conditioning classes on a Thursday afternoon, drop us a line by >> clicking here and we can send you everything you need to know.
Miss Dani x