By Jan Trewartha BA (Hons.)
Fascia is a type of connective tissue that covers all the structures of the body down to cellular level. The pleura and the pericardium are a couple of examples of fascia. You can look at a lamb shank and see the fine, clingfilm-like covering that sheaths it; this is fascia. Fascia varies in form and thickness according to where it is in the body and what its function is; it may, for example, look like tough sheeting or be cobweb-like in appearance.[i]
Where there is physical damage or emotional holding with reduced mobility, the fascia’s natural gliding movement over the different structures becomes restricted. Because fascia connects all the body’s structures, any damage tends to have a ‘domino effect’, creating compensating pain and misalignment even in an area that does not appear to be part of the original injury. Holding patterns develop in the body. So, when those patterns let go, the release can be anything from localised twitching to full body movement.
So, how can we get a holding pattern to ‘let go’? There are quite a few ways of working with fascia that you could learn. Fascial Unwinding is one way of working very lightly in a way that will not hurt you as the therapist and which normally has a powerful effect on the client. It can also be taught very quickly, in fact, I could probably teach you to be fairly competent in one day. But there are other aspects, including posture assessment, body reading, causes and effects of trauma, and energy awareness (because when the body lets go of the holding patterns stagnant energy is released and it helps if you know what to do with it), that constitute useful knowledge around the topic, inform the unwinding technique and allow you to understand what is going on with the client. Also, being on a four-day course gives you time to develop your confidence and to receive plenty of work on yourself.
So, what is fascial unwinding? It is called ‘unwinding’ because that is exactly how it feels; sometimes as though a sea of snakes under your hands is writhing but then, after a moment of stillness, they straighten and calm. It is light touch work, almost on a par with the lightness of touch used in MLD[ii]. The therapist needs to learn to identify which of the various rhythms and movements going on under their hands are those of the fascia. Once that is achieved the rest is a delight as you learn to follow the fascia, sometimes just by moving your hands around the body as the holding patterns let go and expansion of the tissues results. The client often falls into a deeply relaxed state and this is a useful tool if you have clients who will not relax during a treatment; fascial unwinding gets in under the radar.
Sometimes it becomes obvious that a leg or arm, or the head need to move, so the therapist supports and follows while circles are described in the air or unusual positions are adopted by the body, totally spontaneously. What is happening is that the body is releasing in the position of damage. I had a client who was stunned as they watched their legs, one at a time, replay the ski fall they had had that winter. That afterwards their pain had gone stunned them even further!
Because of the lightness of touch, the body has nothing to resist against and can usually just use that space to bring about its own healing. This is very easy on the therapist physically, however emotionally can be a different matter. As old patterns let go, repressed emotions often surface and part of the emphasis in this course is on the importance of ‘holding the space’, i.e. providing a quietly supportive environment so that the client feels safe.
Fascial unwinding blends well with most bodywork modalities, and this course is a stand-alone training but also the required Foundation course for the diploma in Body Realignment; for details click here. The diploma is a year-long training in Facilitated Positional Release combined with energy work; a powerful combination.
TESTIMONIAL – JULY 16
My name is Laura Hayward and I have been a holistic massage therapist for over seventeen years. Having just attended BIH Training’s course in Fascial Unwinding and Energy Awareness, I realise I have been working with my clients’ fascia or more importantly against it most of my career. This course has been informative, fun, hands on and provided several ‘lightbulb’ moments. Jan’s teaching structure takes into account all abilities of bodywork and mixes up the theory and practical in well measured portions. She also provides a safe environment for you to explore and experience for yourself what your clients may go through in the releasing of your own blockages and fascial trauma.
I can’t recommend this course highly enough to a fellow therapist who is looking for that extra string to their bow or to answer that nagging question.
Jan is the Principal of Body in Harmony Training and is based in Windsor, U.K. She also directs the British Fascia Symposium. (www.fasciasymposium.co.uk)
[i] To see fascia ‘live’ see Dr Jean Claude Guimberteau’s film clips on YouTube e.g ‘Strolling under the skin’ and Muscle attitudes’.
[ii] Manual Lymph Drainage