A while ago I wrote a blog that looked at fascia and hydration, “Is Your Fascia Hydrated: H2O to Go,” but more from a runner’s perspective and why some runners/athlete’s experience cramps. Today, I want to feature more of the process of hydration in our fascia.
Water is essential to life – all life
Our bodies are up to 70 % water by weight and nearly all processes in the body require water for cellular function. When we think of water there are two natural ways water flows through our bodies and it is a two part process involving the following;
- Irrigation is your actual consumption of water and water dense foods in adequate amounts.
- Hydration is the chemical process by which water molecules bind with proteins and other substances.
Water is a lifeline for health and well-being. Hydration, the process through which the body moves water, continues to be explored today. Over the past decade there has been a growing exploration of the role of fascia in the human condition. And a new conversation has begun among movement practitioners, manual practitioners and researchers of the role of water and our fascia.
Hydration is controlled by the hypothalamus and the body will prioritize so that essential organs will remain hydrated. Connective tissue (including fascia and membrane) will be one of the first to dehydrate leading to adhesions and fixotrophia of the tissue. At the microscopic level fascia looks like little tubes that transmit nerve signals and nutrients, like water, so that it can move freely over muscles and flow (like water) with the state of movement of the human structure. A good note to self, is when you fee thirsty – you are already dehydrated. Same if you drink lots of water, and pee a lot, your body isn’t holding onto water, because you probably aren’t keeping it hydrated consistently on a regular basis – this all effects your fascia and your body’s systemic functioning.
When we look at fascia; hydration is a bio-mechanical, not a chemical process, because there needs to be movement for a reaction to occur. When we stretch the fascial tissues or palpate them, toxins are pushed out and released; which creates a space for fresh fluids to be reabsorbed – hence hydration of the tissue. The practices of Yoga postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama) are bio-mechanical processes to cleanse our fascial tissues, as are structural integration and fascia stretch practical applications.
For a quick re cap of fascia and what it looks like, check out Gil Hedley’s Fascia and Stretching from the Integral Anatomy Series. It’s a great little video.
Fluid Dynamics and Fascia
In an article from the iroc yoga community I found an enlightening excerpt “ Water has continuously proven to be a fascinating substance. Dr. Gerald Pollack, a University of Washington professor of bioengineering , has developed new theories. In his keynote address titled The Secret Life of Water: E = H2O to the 2012 Fascial Research Congress, he discussed a 4th state of water, which is “bound”. The bound state stands along side of the well known solid, liquid and vapor states we learned in school. It is in this 4th state that water is bound to the protein, collagen, creating special conditions within the fascia. Pollack’s explorations include understanding how water in its “bound” state contributes to the flow of fluids through fascial tissue. We look forward to more application of Pollack’s work in the world of fascial research.”
Understanding that fascia is our biological fabric, our interconnected matrix to our nervous systems, our muscles, our joints and our organs; which ranges from the ropey tendons and ligaments, to the webbed like (but tough) visceral fascia that surrounds our organs, down to the delicate membranes that provide the ‘carpet-backing’ for your body’s other tissues. Fascia has two main components – one is collagen protein and the other is a watery “ground substance” called extracellular matrix (ECM).
Movement is THE most important factor (next to water) to keeping our tissue subtle and elastic. When we stop moving or practice postures that are negative on our structure, we can compensate and cause dysfunction and pain. The process of fluid flow in fascial hydration contributes to the feeling of pliability and suppleness; therefore movement is key.
It is normal to feel stiffer after treatment or after a Yoga class. Why?
Your body works in phases, and as the space or phase a few hours after being stimulated your body is entering into the state of fascial hydration takes place. The “stiffness” is not due to shortening of the muscle tissue, but because our tissues are busy drawing in fresh fluids and are thus rehydrating.
Stiff & Tightness are not the same thing:
Tight fascia affects the whole organism, because it’s all connected. Structural imbalances can cause overall and specific increased rates of nervous stimulation; which when left untreated can cause increased muscle tonicity (not to be confused with tightness), trigger points and somatic-visceral referrals into the organs. Thus the body overall, and especially certain systems, will be tight and ischemic. This can reduce oxidation, hydration and blood supply to your muscles, and long term can result in chronic pain or motor control deficiencies.
Superficial fascia has a tensile strength of 2,000 pounds per square inch. It can entrap more nerve endings and blood vessels than any other tissue. By Hilton’s law of physiology, this will have a direct effect on the underlying muscles and joint proprioceptors. Something to thing about.
Thus the more you think of hydrating your fascia and understand the process of “bones should float” in the body, the more likely you are to not have mobility issues that stem from tightness of the muscles and fascia.
In next weeks blog we will look at tightness vs tonic tissue.