To understand how the body warms, unwinds and releases during a yoga practice, we must understand the physiology of fascia. Fascia is a type of connective tissue found extensively throughout the body. It is made up of a web of protein fibers (collagen) and a liquid-gel complex. Fascia creates our physical form on a micro and macro level: fascia not only forms the framework to hold individual cells together, it is also the material that attaches, stabilizes, envelopes and separates muscle fibers, muscle groups, tendons, ligaments and even bones. Fascia holds us together! It repairs the body by layering in compromised or injured areas to form scar tissue. It creates tense adhesions around the body in areas of stagnancy causing tightness and immobility. Fascia is incredibly strong, like spider silk. It has the tensile strength of about 2,200 pounds per square inch. When fascia is tight, it creates quite a load of heaviness upon our being.
The fascial system is like a complex interconnected spiderweb that holds the body together so it can function as one. In a warming yoga practice, we utilize the concept of thixotrophy. Thixotrophy speaks to fascia's property of melting under increased temperatures. As fascia warms, it transforms from a gel-like state to a liquid. As it cools or becomes static, it becomes more gel-like. The more we generate heat, the more we create the freedom to let go. And, as we release one part of our interweaving whole, the entire fascial body can more fully release and find fluidity.
As yoga practitioners, warming up effectively and efficiently is important for the health and liberation of our bodies. We cultivate an embodied fire.
Heat generates change. Fire initiates a purging of stagnancy. Bodyworkers and massage therapists have long known that when the body is heated, it can be worked, sculpted and re-molded.
Within the yogic philosophy, surya, the sun, lives in the solar plexus, just above the navel. While flowing through a sun salutation, surya energy at the solar plexus is distributed all throughout the body with the fluid movements of the spine. The warmth and fire generated from within is transformative.
As we find more freedom in our physical experience, we remove any tension on our spiritual experience, clarifying our ability to live our lives with greater ease, truth and devotion.
We salute this powerful light. As without, so within. We honor the sun and draw it in.
Photo credit: Elena Alger