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Have you ever heard of the fascial system? The fascial system is made up of a gossamer, saran wrap-like material that basically keeps all our “insides” attached to our skeleton. It’s delicate, sensitive, and responsive. It has three important jobs: an irrigation system that delivers water where we need it (you outside watering your yard), a communication system that helps deliver our brain’s electric messages (the mailman pulling up to your mailbox), and a waste collection system that gathers the waste produced by our cells and helps clear it from our body (the garbage man arriving in the morning).
The better we care for our fascia the better all three of these systems will function. Fascia also plays a major role in aging. Aging is basically fascia drying out — we get stiff joints (because water isn’t being dispersed), our thinking slows (because this tissue isn’t transmitting our brain’s messages as quickly), and we become more susceptible to disease (because we aren’t as efficiently removing this waste). So many of the diseases we see today in people of all ages are directly connected to the failure or disruption of one of these three systems. Living in a chronically dehydrated state is creating a very unhealthy population.
So, how can we take care of our fascia? There are three main ways: 1. Hydration. 2. Movement. 3. Stimulation. Below are suggestions for each category.
Face Rollers + Gua Sha: Ever feel like your face is puffy, uneven, or just not as firm as it should be? Your face also has fascial tissue, and a face roller can help you massage and stimulate this tissue and encourage the movement of waste material to help depuff and smooth. Gua sha has a simlar effect but is a different method. Both feel great and are really relaxing.I have this set which includes both a face roller and a gua she stone and this video will show you how to do it.
Massage: While it’s easy to feel like getting a massage is an act of luxury, it’s also therapeutic and really beneficial to your fascial system and hydration! A full body massage does a great job of stimulating all this tissue — and this is why they always tell you to drink water after a massage! But remember, you don’t have to spend $60 on a professional massage. Swap a massage with your partner, spend some time on a foam roller or do your best to massage your own arms and legs.
Dry Brushing: Dry brushing is the practice of taking a dry, somewhat stiff brush and using long strokes to brush upwards toward your heart. This stimulates the skin and uses the fascial system to move waste. It can also feel very energizing. Personally, this is one of my favorite ways to care for my fascia and I do it 3-5 times per week. Learn more about it in this blog post.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an age-old form of treatment in which fine, sterile needles are inserted into the skin at “acu-points” to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. All of this interacts with the fascial system.
Acupressure Mat: Similar to acupuncture, these mats are covered in tiny spikes. The spikes stimulate the skin and fascial system when you lay, sit, or stand on it. It is often used to treat back pain and headaches. Most sets come with both a mat and pillow, which is better for neck and head pain but can also be used on the back of your legs or hard to reach places. I’ve personally never used one but have heard great things about this set on Amazon.
Regular Movement: One of the most positive impacts you can have on your lifelong health isn’t enrolling in 60-minute cardio classes. It’s becoming less sedentary by committing to get up at least every hour throughout the day. Whether it means keeping your cell phone in the other room or setting a timer, make a commitment to regular movement. My movement routine consists of at least 10,000 steps per day and a quick, 15-minute circuit workout that I complete at home (check out this post for details). I also get up regularly and rely on my Fitbit for movement reminders. My pro tip here is that if you’re hydrated — you’ll get up regularly because you’ll have to pee 😉
Chin-to-Chest: This is a simple exercise you can do each morning in bed. It only takes a few seconds. Remember how the fascial system works overtime at night to help clear waste from your cells, especially your brain cells? A lot of that fluid and waste tends to sit along our spinal canal when we are sleeping. When you wake up in the morning, remove your pillow and lay flat on your back, then slowly lift your head until your chin touches your chest. Hold it for a few seconds and then release your head back down onto the bed. Repeat 3-5 times. This simple movement turns your head into a counterweight and essentially helps pump fresh fluid through your spinal canal (this exercise is from the book Quench).
Stretching/Yoga: An hour-long yoga class is great, but don’t feel like you have to head to the nearest studio or even know what in the world you’re doing to get the benefits. Just spend some time stretching and moving around. It’s also important to go upside down, especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet. This helps get fresh fluid into the tissues of your lower legs. Try downward dog or simply rest with your legs up on the wall or an ottoman.
Water: Drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces is great way to ensure your fascia is hydrated enough to function properly. However, to water combined with electrolytes and fiber is able to provide deeper, more long-lasting hydration. To learn more about the proper ways to hydrate check out my podcast episode How to Achieve Optimum Hydration or my online course The Hydration Checklist.
Collagen: Fascial tissue is made up almost entirely of collagen, the most prominent protein in the human body. Our production of collagen begins to decrease after the age of 25, but we can help support it by consuming it in powder or pill form. I started taking collagen powder about 5 years ago and am a huge fan. You can check out this post to learn more about the collagen powder I take and some recipes I use it in.
Sunshine: This is still being researched, but scientists think that the sun’s light benefits your fascial system through absorption. Ever felt like a few minutes of good sunlight leaves you feeling “charged”? There might actually be something to that! The sun might literally be penetrating our skin, interacting with this fascial tissue, and helping us create energy. Just remember to take it in small doses and don’t get burned. Here’s a little more about this emerging research.
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