Yoga: Fascia, Anatomy and Movement

9th March 2015

In the forward to Joanne Avison’s beautifully produced book, Thomas Myers, fascia ‘guru’ and proponent of kinaesthetic intelligence, sums up how fascial awareness and yoga can inform each other and lead to a deeper understanding of the body, mind and spirit.  This comprehensive and engaging guide will not only inform yoga teachers and practitioners, but also body workers in general (particularly in regards to recommending yoga as part of homecare advice), being as it is ‘an astounding tour of current thinking that blends the spiritual with the scientific, and the sacred with the intensely practical’ (Myers, vi).

A growing knowledge of this sensory connective tissue’s many functions and importance has enhanced Avison’s yoga practice and teaching, in the realization that so many factors influence how fascia adapts to each individual’s lifestyle, posture, and their physical and emotional history; so no two people’s asanas / yoga postures look identical.  She explains the significance of polarity in yoga: pose and counter-pose, asanas and meditation, feminine and masculine: ‘We only ever know a thing by its opposite force, so polarity itself is the essence of our experience’ (p.13).  This polarity leads to the third state of coexistence and balance.  In a similar way, ‘fascia is neither muscle nor bone; it is distinct from them.  However, it is also their context, the common denominator of their combined wholeness as a system’ (13).

In the West, yoga is often just seen as a form of exercise, a way of improving the body; hence another example of the prevailing individualistic culture and resulting issues of isolation and fragmentation.  Similarly, previous anatomical interpretations of the musculoskeletal system have been myopically divisionary, not realizing its innate interconnectivity.  A mushrooming of research into fascia has brought new interpretations of its functions and importance, proving it is not just a connective tissue, but also proprioceptive (its mechanoreceptors inform our sense of ourselves within our body) and interoceptive (the fascial sensory receptors in the gut potentially contribute to our instinctive sense).  Many are now returning to a more holistic viewpoint, and this move to a vision of fascia as fluid, uniting and dynamic is one of the many ways the book poetically points out that fascia and yoga are similar.  Citing current research, Avison explains how fascia unites, from a cellular and neurological level, to connecting tissues (as seen in the endoscopic videos of Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau showing the sliding, dynamic nature of the fascial matrix), to a biomechanical level in its different pathways, as envisioned by Myers’ Anatomy Trains.

Avison explains how fascia’s properties are at work in yoga, exploring themes such as balance, breath, biotensegrity.  Posture, poses and sequences are examined in a fascial context, followed by a discussion on meditation, and archetypal geometries seen in both fascia and ancient Indian philosophy.  This book is both practical and philosophical, with the message that self-awareness is key to both fascia and yoga.  The state of meditation, stillness, is reached through motion – polarities work towards a whole, which is part of a continuum (98).

Review by Catherine Stone @ Massage World Magazine

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