Unfurling our posture into spring
As the days get longer and I find myself out and about more and more, I feel my body unwind and open from the inward wintertime activities of writing, reading books, crafting, and lot’s of movie watching. Just as the blossoms and leaves of early spring begin to unfurl now, I am inspired to speak to the ways in which we are able to unfurl and open our posture through a method I call Dynamic Fascial Response™. I hope the self massage technique that I teach you here helps you to feel rejuvenated as you blossom open into spring.
How do our bodies get stuck in postural patterns?
To understand postural patterns we first need to look at one of the most important organs, the body’s fascia.
Fascinating Fascia (Pronounced Fa (A as in apple)-shah).
Fascia is completely amazing and here is a brief description for the purpose of a more leisurely read.
Your body’s fascia is one continuous structure that is web-like and although there is fascia found in between and around the cellular structures (e.g., muscles, organs, bones) it’s been discovered that it also interpenetrates the muscles, organs and bones spanning, without interruption, from head to toe. So far so amazing right?
Even more fascinating is that the fascia has no fixed pattern or movement the way a web does. When a spider web expands by the force of the wind, it’s geometry simply stretches wider then returns back to its’ original form. The most impressive thing about the fascia is it’s morphing ability. This magical web of fibrous material, is hollow and filled with hydration and is ever-changing in movement. One fibrous web segment of your fascia can morph into two segments during movement!
Yes, the fascial fibers have the ability to morph, sliding in and out of themselves as our body moves (see photo on below by Dr. Jean Gimbertaeu of one fiber morphing into two).
Through its’ amazing tensegrity, fascia is able to bounce back to to it original structure after intricate orchestration of each of its complex movements. This happens even in involuntary movements like gastric motility.
Fascia, has a fractal, icosahedronal architecture (see image to left) and it is the infrastructure of our standing posture and how we move throughout this world. Without it you would be merely a pile of muscle and bones. Did you know you are a fractal icosahedron? Wow!
A must see film of fascia can be found on youtube. I highly recommend Jean Gimberteau’s impressive film ‘Strolling Under the Skin to all bodyworkers and anatomy enthusiasts!
You can click here to watch this film.
Movement Matters: Fascial range of motion becomes most compromised when movements become limited. A great read on movement is Katy Bowman’s, Movement Matters.
It is full of great essays discussing the many ways our natural movements have become so limited through technological advancements and cultural changes. The book inspires the reader to move as much as possible in as many ways as possible. It’s so well written, with a sense of humor and also with a revolutionary tone of taking back our birthright to move.
The key faub for instance limits the hand, wrist and arm movements formally used when turning a key.
Climbing trees is actually a great way to move our bodies and it explores a wide variety of range of motion movements from head to toe. So next time someone tells you to go climb a tree, you might want to take them up on it!
Forward Head Posture
According to Kapandji (Physiology of the Joints, Volume III), for every inch your head moves forwards, it gains 10 pounds in PSI weight. As it moves forward, the muscles in your upper back and neck have to work that much harder to keep the head (chin) from dropping onto your chest. This results in neck and shoulder tension caused by restrictions in the anterior (front of body) fascia.
One of the most constant factors that I see in my clients with shoulder, neck, and other structural holding patterns that cause tension and pain, is forward head posture.
Generally speaking, forward head posture can be the result of several factors. This pattern can be caused by excessive driving, anterior weight gain of pregnancy, nursing, tending over small children, doing craftwork, art, music making, writing, massaging over a table all day, etc. One of the most common is a flexion lifestyle of sitting all day in front of a desk computer. Anyone who does anterior dominant activities on a daily basis is susceptible to this postural pattern if they don’t counter stretch and do some type of strength training (this might include yoga and pilates as well as weight or resistance training). Strengthening the muscles of the traps and rhomboids can help counter balance the forward pull.
Pregnancy and new moms – All wrapped up.
Some lack of movement however is created by life itself. A new mom for instance may nurse her baby, looking down at it, completely in love. She will hold her baby everyday, pick up her baby, she may change baby’s diaper on a low bed rather than a high changing table.
So in the case of this new-mom example, the constant looking down, forward dominating movements and lack of full range of motion along with the physiological changes of increased breast size may cause the fascia to start to bind and wrap, in relation to the motion of the body’s muscle movements, or lack of. I call these areas wrapped points.
The body pain and tension this postpartum mom is feeling may be felt in her occiput, neck and shoulders. The holding pattern caused by the wrapped points most likely originates in the muscles of her chest and front of the neck. My approach as a bodyworker is not to go straight to the areas of discomfort but rather go to the wrapped points to begin the unwinding.
The method of my bodywork that I call Dynamic Fascial Response™ has changed how I work on bodies, how I assess them and also how I care for my own. It begins with something that I call anterior unwinding. It has been my signature style for years because it creates lasting results. Now I am teaching it to other practitioners so they can offer this work to their clients. It is advanced bodywork that has helped improve my clients’ posture as well as reduced if not eliminated pain completely, often in just one session. Anytime one does anterior unwinding on a client it is important to be trained it it first so you can take necessary precautions and understand the quality of touch needed for fascial work. There is however a simple and safe self massage you can do on yourself.
Using Dynamic Fascial Response™ to treat neck and shoulder tension
Here is a self care practice that I give my clients to do between sessions:
Getting the fascia to unwind works best with no oil but if your skin is sensitive try placing a small amount of oil or lotion on your hands and rub into hands rather then on the chest before stretching. This way it is not too slippery. If your body or hands are too slippery fascial unwinding is harder to achieve.
*The first time you perform this fascial unwinding it may feel intense but take it easy and always slow, never experiencing pain but rather meeting the limit of a comfortable range of motion just were you are at on each day and not stretching past it. Be sure to move very slowly and inhale your chest up into your hands as you move pause to exhale and when you move again inhale up. This chest breathing is quite different then the belly breathing many people are used to but it will activate the thoracic body and bring chi to that area as well as create a resistance stretch as you perform the various strokes shown below.
Once you complete this unwinding of course feel free to apply oil. It will feel nourishing and delicious. As you perform this fascial release daily you will feel a significant opening along with a release of the neck and shoulder tension you were feeling in the back of your neck.
1) Begin chin to chest and start by placing your finger pads just under your collarbones and on either side of the sternum. Drag finger pads down the chest while you counter stretch very slowly by tilting your chin upward. Open and close the jaw slowly.
2) Continue in this pin and stretch fashion by placing finger pads of left hands to the right of the sternum and under right collar bone and chin down towards hands. Explore range of motion slowly by tilting chin up and tilting your left ear towards your left shoulder while dragging finger pads slowly down towards right axilla (armpit). Repeat on left side.
3) Place finger pads of left hand to the right of sternum, under collarbone. Drag towards right shoulder while turning head to the left. Repeat on left side.
If you would like to experience this bodywork from me instead, please feel free to
“I was fortunate enough to find Chula as my prenatal massage therapist. I am also a bodyworker, and so appreciate a knowledgeable, effective bodyworker. Chula is not only both of those, but also very professional. Chula worked on me at the end of my first pregnancy, and so when i was pregnant again this last year, I couldn’t wait to call her again. I can’t begin to express the amount of gratitude I have for her! She helped me so much with extreme pains I experienced during my pregnancy. Her understanding of the body and her ability to apply that knowledge make her a wonderful therapist.
If you are interested in taking one of my classes, you can view the 2018 schedule by clicking here and email me to register.
“Chula’s class gave me a well rounded understanding of prenatal massage and postnatal care. Her teaching style is organized, focused, and kind. She will wait until every last person is on the same page before moving on. I will continue to take every class she offers and encourage fellow body workers to do the same!”
“She was very patient and clear and very easy to pay attention to. Her enthusiasm for the subject was contagious”
“I really appreciate the book and all of the reference material that was provided”
“I loved all of the fascia techniques and Chula was very organized.”
A testimonial from a labor and delivery nurse and trained doula: “I’ve had several opportunities to utilize my training. At work I’ve been using the labor stimulation points to help with inductions, and have been doing a LOT of cross fiber work in the back area. I had a laboring patient walk in and grab my hand. She directed me to her lower back and demanded I push there. I started doing a hip squeeze and cross fiber massage, and she let out a moan and said “that feels SO good.” I’ve also used the forearm work with a patient who had carpal tunnel syndrome.”
Upcoming pregnancy massage training for interested
bodyworkers and doulas:
The contents of this article are not a replacement for medical care.
All rights reserved, March 2018
Healing River Massage (530) 798-9998