Think of elasticity as the bounce in your step, the buoyancy you feel when your movement is light and springy. Part of what facilitates that springiness is fascial resilience or elasticity. Not all of our movements require elasticity. For example, we don’t want our hand to be springy when we take a sip of our tea, but if we want to jump or run with ease, elasticity becomes important. Spring, or elasticity, should be present whenever we’re working with some combination of momentum, gravity and ground reaction force (where the ground literally, but often imperceptibly, de-forms and then re-forms on contact).
Elasticity is important because it protects our joints and other bodily structures from excessive strain and it helps to store and then release energy (in the same way as a spring does), which is what gives us bounce. Basically, it’s our elastic storage capacity.
The example of a yo-yo is a good one here. If you don’t recoil the yo-yo at exactly the right time you have to wind it up mechanically. If, on the other hand, you initiate the movement with good rhythm you create the kind of elastic recoil that allows the yo-yo to take care of the rewind on its own. It’s the same with our body. Elastic recoil is what makes us great at running and jumping and gives us a spring in our step ifwe can get the balance of our fascial architecture right.
Learn how this fascial knowledge can be applied to yin yoga, here.
For the fascia to be elastic, it needs to have certain qualities. For example, our collagen fibers must be arranged as a lattice and those same fibers need to have a crimp, or spring, in them. To maintain this architecture the fascia needs to be loaded regularly, otherwise it loses its shape.
When it comes to training elasticity there are a few things to keep in mind. One is that in training for elasticity, rhythm is important. If the movement is too slow or too fast, or if the transition is too long, muscular force will dominate the movement and muscle energy is costly for the body. If, on the other hand, we can find a continuous rhythm, we begin to utilize fascial energy. The kinds of movements that train elasticity are bouncing, swinging and spiraling actions, and domino actions that use the weight of one part of the body to instigate movement in another part of the body.
In addition to this, to improve elasticity, the following things need to be present: fascial glide, fascial hydration, good rhythm and coordination of movement, joint mobility and body-wide dynamic stability. Why do we care? Because elasticity makes our body more energy-efficient, improves athletic performance and decreases muscle fatigue and tension.
Learn more about qualities of fascia with this next article on plasticity.