“You see….., I believe in shapes. I believe everything good has a shape. Shapes are the way in which we know who we are and where we are in our universe. Show me the shapes and forms a person gives to her or his life, and I will tell you whether she/he is a master or victim of that life”. ( paraphrased from Stanley Keleman’s quote from Gail Goodwin’s “Glass People”.)
Our bodies, minds, and spirits, born of our DNA, life experiences, and individual life experiences are perpetually shaping our form.The fascia ( connective tissue, myofascaie, or neuromyofascial web) is the substance that ultimately creates our form, both seen and unseen. Like the Koshas,as described in yoga texts, these many-layered sheathes are all independent and yet interdependent matrices, ones which nourish and support all of “us”. Its network interconnects and maintains the shape we’ve come to know, the material that is home to our entire essence. To understand this vital network is to practice with the foundation of body movement; a knowledge of this foundation deepens our practice and our ability to work with others’ forms.
Our myofascial system is ALIVE! And…, with knowledge of how to properly care for and maintain this biological fabric, it will sustain all our systems in a state of health and longevity. Until this decade, very little research has been devoted to understanding this tissue.
To paraphrase what Tom Myers speaks about, most of our understanding of and approach to human anatomy ( literal meaning is “to cut”) has been done with a blade, a throw back to our days as hunters. Our survivalist skills caused us to remove what we could use for food, and discard the rest. With the exception of those researchers of fascia and connective tissue, this is still the scene in most dissection labs around the world.
I say this to say we are so much more than a collection of parts. We are not “built”, or put together like a machine, but are more like a plant, grown from a single seed, with all the information intact to evolve, to become the perfection of who we are to become. So, applied to movement, the old paradigm was to isolate and work with ( exercise/strengthen) our “parts” as a way of bringing health to the “whole”. Now if some instances this may be a worthwhile approach, but in general, we need to be thinking of this body, this mind, these emotions, not separate, but constantly connecting, connected, interrelated, and sharing information globally throughout our essence. When we are called to move into shape, it is the whole of our being doing so, not simply a contraction “here”, or a counter move of stabilization “there”, but a matrix, a chain of communications highways, pathways, relating, reacting, merging with one another.
The practice of Tantric Hatha Yoga is one paradigm we can utilize to create holistic health in our neuro-myo-fascial web ( think uni-tard here, to quote Robert Schleip). This network is the container, the medium on our palate, where we get to explore the global self, our gestalt. By exploring asana with pranayams, we are actively “juicing up” the myofascial net by flushing our systems of stale fluids, older cellular structures, and adhesions which create dysfunctional patterning in our form. And, by then including the practice of engaging the bandhas, (which travel along the deeper myofascial meridian lines), the combined effect is like a dance, an interplay of energies, creating intentional structural shifts to remove old habits that no longer serve us, to become gateways for personal transformation. (If we hope to change our psychology, we must change our physiology! ) We discover this first through our own practice, to place this in our own being. Then, as teachers, therapists, observers, we can use these tools, this knowledge to help our students, our clients, or significant others (which includes everyone we encounter in this lifetime) to experience it, to place in their own beings
Jeffrey Shoaf is teaching our next module on Myofascia, Prana and Bandhas: Merging Anatomy with Spirit November 7-11 at Decatur Yoga and Pilates: www.decaturyogaandpilates.com