To know how to release the tightness of our bodies connective tissue (called fascia), it helps to understand how we find our way into this bound up way of living first. Release is effectively an unwinding of this process of poor posture and movement patterns. In the world of somatics, we don’t feel it’s absolutely necessary to know the why of creating such tightness, but the mechanism of how can help an individual release and choose a different way of being in their bodies.
What is this binding process and how do we undo it to build a structure that behaves differently? Fascia responds to poor posture as well as physical and emotional stressors. This can include overuse, underuse, injuries and poor body awareness of tension stemming from the way we interpret our challenges. When any of these activate our nervous system to create more tension than is needed to achieve stability and quality movement, the fascia becomes denser and possibly stuck to structures that surround it. This process of fibrosis causes compression and misalignments that affect muscles, joints, blood vessels, nerves and even our internal organs.
This smooth muscle of the fascia is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS); not unlike the smooth muscle of the heart. The ANS controls the tension of the fascia which can increase fibrosis if hyper tensioned, maintain functional tension if balanced and stretch and release excess tension when relaxed to a state of safety. By definition the ANS will act without our intentional actions. However, we have a regulatory capacity available to us that shifts its hypervigilant response. When we access this we have a powerful tool for reducing tension and the cascade of physical and emotional health challenges associated with it.
This takes somatic (body) connection in a way that allows the body to feel its own sense of boundaries and safety. From this standpoint letting go of tension is acceptable to the wellbeing of our body through our nervous system. When we are using physical techniques to release bound tissue such as foam rollers, balls, stretching and even the hands of a massage therapist, sustained change won’t be achieved if we feel unprotected within ourselves.