The Body-wide Fascial Net
Some of you may not be aware that the foundation of my writing and teaching is the Structural Integration method developed by Dr. Ida Rolf. Most people know of “rolfing” as a system of bodywork that can improve posture. It is so much more. It is a body philosophy—a way of deeply knowing one’s body.
The seventh step in Rolf’s bodywork protocol addresses tensions in the face that affect the neck. Strain in the cranium affects the adaptability and mobility of the spine, and tensions in the oral and nasal cavities reflect down through the viscera. Because of the ubiquitous body-wide fascial net, this “seventh hour”—as Dr. Rolf called it—impacts integration of the whole organism. I remember receiving nasal work (gentle work inside the nostrils) that released tension in my feet. I walked around for hours, stoned by my new relationship to the ground.
Tensions in the face affect the whole body
I have written about the relationship between face tension and the body in numerous blog posts. Among them:
In my recent book, Your Body Mandala, there’s a chapter entitled “The Lid On Your Spine.” In it I take the reader on a meditation journey intended to bring awareness and release to the jaw, nose, throat, and indirectly, to the entire spine.
A New Way to Release Facial (and Fascial) Tensions
Recently I’ve found a new—for me at least—way to explore and release facial tensions. I’d like to offer it to you as an experiment. I’ll be grateful if you will play with it for a week and then post a comment below about your findings.
The exploration is simple. It is to smile with your eyes. What I mean by this is to allow gentle warmth to radiate through your eyes. That’s the initial “movement.” Let any other tissues in your body respond to that tiny action.
If you have my book, Your Body Mandala, I suggest you listen to the linked Practices 45 and 46 as preparation. Wait a day or so after doing them before trying the “smiling eyes” practice described below.
If you don’t have that resource, take plenty of time to relax. Become aware of the tissues in your neck and throat, face and cranium. Try to find a comfortable, neutral state in your entire body. You can be lying down, sitting or standing. Breathe in an unforced, comfortable way. Notice sensations in your cheeks, ears, nose, lips, tongue, throat, forehead, crown, the nape of your neck, and any other area of your body that comes to awareness. Your eyes can be open or closed.
Then let your eyes smile, noticing the sensations that arise.
Your eyes are not smiling at anything in particular. Avoid picturing a baby’s face, a lovely sunset, or a pleasant event. Instead, let your eyes gaze at a doorknob or a light switch—ordinary things. The purpose is not to induce a mental or emotional state, but simply to notice the physical sensations in your body that accompany smiling with your eyes.
Sensory Nourishment in Daily Life
There’s no “best” sensation to look for. Our physiology is so complex that few of us will feel the same responses. In general, however, there may be softening or yielding sensations.
If what you experience seems beneficial to you, the next step with this practice is to cultivate what you felt. Practice smiling with your eyes while driving, while walking the aisles in the supermarket, while practicing yoga. This morning I practiced it in my boxing class as I whaled away on the heavy bag.
Once you have discovered a benefit for yourself in doing this practice, you may be tempted to focus on the “results” rather than on returning, again and again, to simply “smiling.” Let’s say you discover an easing of your breathing or in the set of your jaw or shoulders. If you want to maintain those benefits, you may start focusing on the change in your posture. Try to resist this impulse. It’s best to stick with the basic sensory exploration, over and over, each time with beginner’s mind: What occurs when I let my eyes “smile?”
You don’t need to be in a deep state every time you practice. You can be anywhere, doing anything, yet in the background of your awareness there’s space to notice what happens within you. Stay with what you sense in your body. The sensations are like food, nourishing your deep brain centers with information that allows new behaviors to emerge without being ordered by your conscious mind.
Please let me know what sensations arise for you.
© 2019 Mary Bond