The idea for this post came to me while I was dancing. It also grew out of a conversation I’d had a few hours earlier with one of my spiritual mentors, Dunya, about a workshop given by Robert Schleip that I had recently attended. Robert is one of the foremost researchers on the nature of fascia. Fascia is the body-wide network of connective tissue that forms pockets, tubes, slings and straps that contain all your other body tissues. You can find out more about how healthy fascia contributes to healthy posture in Chapter 2 of The New Rules of Posture.
Fascia and Aging
The stiffness we may experience when we begin aging is a sign that fascial layers are becoming dehydrated and adhered to one another. That happens with chronically poor posture as well. And, poorly conditioned fascia can set us up for injuries. The good news is that a large proportion of fascia is a type of liquid crystal—it’s water—so when we move in specific ways, water is squeezed back into the dried out tissues.
Thanks to Robert’s work, fascia--formerly viewed by science and medicine as mere packing material, is now understood as a major player in our capacity for body-awareness--it’s essentially a sensory organ. And, if that weren’t enough, healthy, hydrated fascia is the prime factor in enduring youthfulness and grace of movement. That’s because the elasticity of fascia gives it the capacity to store and rebound kinetic energy (like a rubber band).
Robert has been applying what he learned in the fascial research laboratories and conferences (and from years as a Rolfer®), to the development of a fitness approach that specifically targets fascia. The main characteristics of fascia-specific movement are springiness, lightness, effortlessness, playfulness and elegance. Effortlessness, Robert said, depends on your perception of your personal rhythm and pacing. That rhythm lets you recognize an internal sense of ease. While elegance can be analyzed in terms of curvilinear, wavelike motion, an essential ingredient is, for lack of a another term, soul.
As Dunya and I spoke about this, it became apparent that dancemeditation, the practice she teaches, incorporates all the essential features that contribute to healthy fascia. And that dancing, in general, promotes the regeneration of fascia in ways that Pilates and yoga which are primarily focused on muscle tissue, do not.
Unveil Your Inner Terpsichore
I believe that everyone has an inner dancer waiting to be unveiled. I don’t mean dance as performance, or even “learning to dance”, which, however beneficial, involves your adopting someone else’s moves. I’m talking about dance as a process of self-expression and self-discovery. Think Zorba the Greek. In a meditative approach to dance one has little awareness of being watched, even by oneself. Instead, the movement becomes a mantra or mandala on which one’s attention is focused. Such movement can propel extraordinary journeys within one’s inner being.
Even when a transported state does not occur, there are the lovely mundane benefits of having done your day’s fascial workout, and having lifted yourself—as I did on the day mentioned—out of a computer glitch funk. It only took 20 minutes.
To get started, try the exploration in The New Rules called Body Parts Art on page 197. It’s introduced as a practice for promoting adaptability of your fascia. If you think you “can’t dance” just follow the instructions for that exploration. Set a timer for 20 minutes and give it a try. Without variable articulation through your joints and fascia healthy posture is not possible.
Find yourself some luscious music, set a timer for 20 minutes and let me know what happens.