We all have unique patterns of movement. Some of them we’re born with, but the vast majority of them were learned because they conferred upon us a particular advantage when it came to navigating the world, or because they helped us to work around an injury, or because we exercise in predictable ways, or because we have created a particular movement groove through repetitive activity. What this shows us is that our fascial system has adaptability.

This is the second article in the series on the qualities of fascia. To read the first article on fascia's extra-cellular matrix, click here.

 

Our body is very responsive. It lays down extra collagen when it notices that we’re carrying more load. Then, once there is sufficient support, the body stops laying down collagen. When the demands on our body decrease our body begins the process of clearing away collagen because form follows function.

Learn about fascia and the mind-body connection here.

The good news is that the adaptability that has allowed us to do this is the same adaptability that allows us to regroove our patterns if and when we need to. It’s important to know, however, that this process of fascial change happens very slowly. Although we can change our movement patterns very quickly; almost immediately in fact. Postural adaptation takes longer; weeks, months, even years.

One of the ways we can promote adaptability is through varied movement. Increased mechanical load stimulates our cells, those cells produce more collagen making us stronger because our tissues become more dense. This happens because the ration of collagen to elastin changes, as does the degree of viscosity (runniness) of our ground substance (extra-cellular matrix), as does our fiber arrangement.

Essentially, what we’re trying to create by training fascial adaptability is resilience. For resilience we need both tissue flexibility and tensile strength. When we get this balance right we experience ourselves as stable even when we’re moving, we have the ability to move freely and those movement patterns are efficient. Factors that compromise our adaptability are adhesions in our fascial network or ground substance that is too gluey, or if our collagen fibers are laid down in a disorganized fashion (this happens through lack of movement, otherwise the fibroblast cells, which lay down collagen fibers, do so along the lines of tension movement creates) or if our myofibroblast cells are too active.

So, want to train the adaptability of your fascia? There are three great ways to do this:

  • When moving, spend some time out of your comfort zone; challenge yourself, don’t always choose movement paths that are well-worn.
  • Spend some time ‘playing’. That is, combine movements that are familiar to you, with things that feel unusual or unfamiliar.
  • Having said that, make sure you finish your movement session with something that is symmetrical and familiar. This will ensure you don’t overload your nervous system and will help the body to integrate and rebalance.

 

Learn about other qualities of fascia by clicking here for the next article on 'fascial glide' (how the structures within the body are able to slide relative to one another)