Bodywork and Movement – Fascia: A Vital Sensory Organ? by Trevor Caruso
An Awakening Experience with Fascia
Laying in bed one morning, I awoke to my body in a particularly contorted position. My head cranked to the side, my shoulders bunched up towards my ears, and my torso laid contorted like rotini. I began to unfurl; untwisted my spine, allowed my sacrum to lengthen, my low back made a more firm contact with the bed. My shoulders stretched outward and the effects of gravity gently pulled them towards the earth as my neck extended towards the head of the bed.
I laid there for a few seconds, in this relaxed, stretched out position, and it hit me… I suddenly felt a new sense of aliveness, as if I had an extra sense at my disposal. A gentle feeling of excitement ran through my body as I felt the connection my teachers before me had so often purported.
Putting It Together
At an early age I began my training in awareness and movement practices, from Aikido to Tai Chi to Qigong and lesser known practices, like Wujifa and standing meditation. I watched and learned from my teachers. How do they move? What are they feeling? Where does my movement look different or the same, and why?
After years of study, I found a teacher who continuously shared the importance of fascia; the elastic, resilient tissue which enfolds our every tissue, organ and muscle. I met the founder of Wujifa with whom I began studying in 2003. He often talked of the Chinese principle called Peng. Peng, he explained, is a feeling of fullness in the body produced when the fascia is gently taut like a balloon (unlike that of muscle tension). This feeling is similar to the idea of two plastic cups connected by a string. If the string is taut and one person talks into one cup like a telephone, the one on the other end can hear through the other cup surprisingly well! Although, if the string is slack, the vibration which is created by the voice of the speaker can’t travel through the string and gets lost along the way.
I began to notice a similar ‘look’ or ‘feeling’ in most Chinese moving meditations and martial arts. This feeling of fullness; a taut, yet gentle way of movement as if the practitioner were being careful not to disrupt or ‘break’ a certain feeling. This was much like the plastic cup contraption!
We now know that fascia is a vital sense organ which can be under-utilized and disrupted. Often times our fascial system is traumatized through injury, habits, or emotional trauma. When our body remains contorted for prolonged periods of time protein fibers grow between the fascial planes which can inhibit movement and vibrations. That full feeling of connection is blocked by tension.
As I laid there in my bed, I experienced that feeling which I now have become so familiar with in my Tai Chi, Qigong, and even Yoga practice. Like a spider web, interwoven connections in the body make a feedback system that our brains rely on to give us information about our environment. Instead of feeling with just our hands, imagine what we can experience if we learn to feel using this entire interconnected wholeness that we are born into: the matrix of fascia!
About Trevor Caruso, Rolf Structural Integration Therapist
Trevor Caruso is a Rolf Structural Integration therapist and owner of Mirror Gate Integrative Therapy in Santa Cruz County. He’s studied internal martial arts and other healing and awareness practices since 1993 and has offered public classes in Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation for over 12 years. For Rolf sessions or classes call (831) 325-3587. MirrorGateIntegrativeTherapy.com/