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Unlocking the secrets of fascia

Reporter and keen yoga practitioner Kim Parkinson went along to a workshop led by yoga medicine teacher trainer Rachel Land.

Fascia is becoming the buzzword in yoga and physical therapy but what does it really mean?

Yoga Medicine Teacher Trainer Rachel Land ran a weekend of workshops at Reset Wellness Centre in Gisborne which focused on the spine, hip, shoulder and myofascial release.

Queenstown-based Rachel Land is passionate about helping students gain tangible benifits from her studies in anatomy and alignment — benefits like strength, stability, ease of movement and clarity of mind.

A month into recovering from a torn hamstring, I was interested to learn the technique of myofascial release, so I went along to a three hour session with this well-respected yoga teacher. I wanted to improve my understanding of this important and often overlooked part of the human body.


Fascia is the connective tissue which supports, connects or separates different types of tissues and organs in the body.

It is flexible and strong, one continuous interconnected system that exists from head to toe without interruption.

Rachel’s three-hour workshop began with a presentation explaining the fascia functions and what happens when there is an injury which results in inflammation and fibrosis. This was of particular interest to me as I try to regain strength and flexibility in my torn hamstring.

She explained that when there is an injury, connective tissue often has lower strength than normal due to more random collagen fibre direction. There is also potential for adhesion between muscle layers, resulting in the inability of muscles to glide past each other. The workshop focused on myofascial release, which is any technique used to manipulate the muscles and fascia.

The goals were to restore elastic potential of muscles; release adhesions; increase blood and lymphatic flow; increase hydration of tissues; restore neuromuscular connection and communication; restore directional order to collagen fibres and re-establish neural and myofascial glide.

Sounds good right? And perhaps a little technical for some but hang in there.

There was a good turnout at the workshop and each student was given a set of massage balls, which we worked with for the following two-and-a half-hours.

It feels like you are giving yourself a massage and Rachel said it was not something you needed to do everyday but just when you felt a stiffness or tightness in the muscles which needed release.

She said it should not be sore after and if so, to decrease intensity and duration of each session as well as the time in between to allow for recovery.

We began with the feet and I can’t tell you how good this felt. Using a combination of techniques (see side bar) we then moved up the legs to the hips and then started at the neck and moved down the back to the gluts. The arms and hands were next and we finished with the jaw and temple area above the ears. This was followed by savasana — the relaxation and meditation component of a yoga class or practice.

I felt a deep sense of relaxation throughout although there were bits that were uncomfortable and I avoided the injury site behind my right knee. Rachel cautioned us about knowing the difference between tolerable sensation and pain.

“If you find a point that is causing your face to squint and your eyes to water, it’s too much!,” she said.

And when using the compression technique which is good for trigger points, we were told to make it reasonably short, holding for 30 to 60 seconds at most.

YOGA MEDICINE: Yoga teacher Rachel Land uses two massage balls to release tension in muscles and connective tissue. Pictures by Leigh Jeffery