When we free the fascia, can we free the mind?

During 5 years of consistent Yin Yoga practice, I have gained some perspective on beliefs I hold on to and how they might be holding me back. Some of these beliefs come from childhood, some from loss or struggle, some from the way others have labelled or judged me. As I observe myself more keenly, I notice these beliefs are expressed repeatedly in the stories I tell about myself – whether I am explaining my actions to others or justifying them to myself. And I love stories! So, it’s easy for me to spin them like a spider spins a web.

 

During my first Yin Yoga teacher training with Paul Grilley, he helped me to witness to a story web I had been spinning for so long that I was hopelessly tangled in it. Although I am a competitive athlete, I have a fairly profound scoliotic curve in my spine. And when I am not taking good care of my body, I can experience chronic, debilitating pain. Doctors have often used discouraging language about my spine, expressing wonderment that I could be so athletic, advising caution, and generally predicting dire futures. But I’m stubborn and hate being told no so I would go back to yoga or martial arts or running, finding therapy in movement and a more intuitive relationship with my body. Secretly, however, I had doubts. I wondered if the doctors were right and I was destined to lose ease and range of movement.

One morning Paul began leading us into a series of yin backbends. As I lay myself slowly back into Saddle Pose, I started to feel a great deal of fear. Was this a good pose for me to be doing? Could it hurt me? Should I be more cautious and conservative? Pretty soon, easing into this Yin pose, I had worked myself up into a frenzy! Maybe I should not be doing back bends at all, EVER! Paul was passing near me so I gestured to him and began to pour out my whole story about scoliosis and doctors and my ‘damaged’ back and chronic pain. And he listened for a bit and then looked at me very kindly and said, “Are you in pain now?” And that stopped my story-spinning mind in its tracks!

Presented with a direct question, I realised I was so caught up in my scoliosis story that I had no idea what I was actually feeling at that moment in the pose. As I paused to consider this and tuned into what I was actually feeling, I realised I was not straining or in pain. So, I said, “Well, no.” And Paul gazed at me, smiled, and walked away. That moment fundamentally changed my yoga practice and continues to influence how I teach movement.

A few years later, I came across the work of innovator and teacher Tom Myers and his pioneering work on fascia. Myers proposes a fascinating body “map” in which our physical injuries, damaging beliefs, and emotional traumas become patterns woven into our fascia. If our beliefs and ideologies are patterned in the fascia, then new ways of moving, stretching, and breathing that influence the fascia will allow new insights to penetrate the fog of old stories. My experience with Yin Yoga tells me Myers is on to something.

To find out more about Jennifer, visit her website yoga.jencrescenzo.com

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