Into the Body with Yin Yoga
Updated: Jan 24
My previous blogs have been mainly about our presence in this universe as energy beings and the potential for our eternal existence but I suppose while we're here it may be nice to know a little about our body considering that we currently live in it day to day and is, in the majority of cases, in western society at least, the reason we begin our journey into Yoga.
I won't go into every little detail here today as time is always of the essence (plenty of time to catch up in other blogs mind!). We know we have the skeletal system, this being our framework and lever system linked together by ligaments, our protection for the vital organs throughout the body (the cranium & ribcage being prime examples), our storage for minerals and fats and even production of our blood cells. The skeletal system is pulled around by a system of pulleys, like a puppet on a string, by means of the muscular system, this includes tendons to tug (muscle to bone), muscle bodies/fibres/filaments which contract (more details later) and fascia which encompasses all of the above and much much more. This muscular system is stimulated and activated by the peripheral and central nervous systems, (PNS & CNS) respectively, with information from the muscles, tendons and joints being relayed via sensory neurons of the PNS to the CNS which in turn sends motor neurons back to the muscles and glands which contract or secrete as necessary.
What we are specifically going to focus on today is the fascia network. There's been quite a buzz around this word, or this 'stuff', within the fitness and wellbeing world for quite a few years now. Fascia is primarily made up of a combination of substances which include a variety of proteins, such as collagen fibers and sulfur molecules. These structural proteins are intertwined as fibres that are twisted, apply this term loosely as the true dynamics are far more complex, or possibly basic, together into triple helixes that form into a liquid crystalline network overlaid throughout the entire human body, from head to toe. In a living body, the water content acts as the hydration system for electrical conduction within the collagen fibers that functions as a protective webbing, like a membranous skin barrier that is wrapped around the entire body. For many years (from 1660 AD, the formation of the royal society, to late 19th century, the official scientific discovery of fascia) through biological investigation of cadavers the fascia was pulled out of the way and discarded without a second thought, simply being seen as 'sack' which contained the interesting stuff held within, every muscle, bone, organ, nerve, artery and vein in the body, and that is because once the body ceases to live the function of the fascia ceases along with it, as you'd expect with everything within the body to be honest, but what differs with the fascia is that it changes property completely from a dynamic fluid like responsive energised network of impulses and information to something that more resembles the pith of an orange or a grapefruit.
It may have taken the western world a long time to see fascia for what it really is but now we have we are really beginning to get grips with its importance, long gone are the days of a useless sack it is now being seen as an integral part of human, or indeed life being anatomy. Without it the body would not be stable enough to accomplish our basic functions of sitting, standing and walking. With four main levels at which fascia lives in the body, the superficial layer just underneath the skin, the deeper layer which wraps all our muscles, nerves, and blood vessels, the subserous fascia which wraps all our organs and the dura mater of the craniosacral system. I mentioned 'dynamic' and 'fluid like' previously but I don't think that description comes close to grasping the wonder of this liquid crystalline network which has the ability to move freely in and around every element of our body, and of itself, it is strong enough to keep everything from spilling out in all directions yet delicate enough to allow free flowing movement down to a cellular level! (Click here to see a video of living fascia and how it moves! Truly beautiful).
As impressive as all that is it is only the tip of the iceberg. Although modern science has only just began to make sense of this intricate network our ancient (Chinese) ancestors were on the case from around 2200BC! While using hot stones to warm themselves, inhabitants realized that pressing them against certain parts of the body could help alleviate certain sicknesses. They also found that by using bone needles and pricking themselves in a particular spot would relieve pain in other areas of the body. This was all documented in acupuncture texts predating the People’s Republic of China, which formed the established standards for current Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fascia network was understood to be the mediating system of acupuncture practice.
This fascia, this liquid crystalline network, acts as a communication system throughout the entire body connecting each layer skin through to bone, entire organs down to individual cells moving energy and information in a constantly changing and reactive narrative, responding, remembering and relaying information between every function of the body. If we were to look at meridian channels we find that each meridian channel corresponds to a particular organ system but also encompasses the larger interactive functions with other organs. Meridian channels are passageways of energy which flow throughout the matrices of the human body intersecting within physical, emotional, mental and spiritual/quantum (the more I learn the more it's increasingly difficult to separate the two - maybe we need a new word...spiritum..? quantual...? spiriantum...? then again, maybe not! 😆) levels.
As mentioned above the ancient Chinese discovered that pricking themselves with bones in certain areas (could I have worded that better...) helped alleviate ailments throughout the body. It is widely stated that acupuncture points closely correlate to fascia planes, this is not that surprising with the fact that fascia is found throughout the entire body at every level of the physical, mental, emotional and spiriantum (just experimenting 😉). What differentiates these acupuncture points and the more general fascia planes is that the bones/needles are inserted in areas where there are greater bundles of fascia, the liquid crystalline network, in much the same way the Indian Sutras describe the 7 main Chakras as cross over points (greater bundles) of the 72,000 Nadi channels. What I love the broader our knowledge across cultures and time lines, right up to modern day science, the more we can tie this information together and the more we see similarities to give us a much better picture that in general we are all on the same path, seeking and learning the same things just in a myriad of different ways, with none of which being wrong...but I digress!
The fascia stores and moves water throughout the body, it functions as the fibre optic network carrying voltage and oscillating frequencies throughout the bio-neurological system via its semi conductive properties. These bodily fluids include lubricating secretions that come from glands and serous cells which facilitate major bodily functions like digestion, respiration and excretion of metabolic waste. If these liquid crystalline properties are unable to flow due to lack of hydration or trauma blockages, the fascia solidifies and hardens, unable to transmit energetic signals and information, which leads to sensations of physical pain, emotional imbalances and mobility challenges. When the crystalline matrix is properly hydrated in the human body, the entire living system is bound within the water molecules and becomes electrified, transmitting energy signals at much faster speeds than the central nervous system. This electrified network can be activated through applying physical pressure to focused areas, the previously mentioned bundles, these piezoelectric effects change the electrical dynamics that exist, not only where the physical pressure is directed but due to the liquid crystalline nature of fascia, within the entire structure of the layers of the bodily matrices which interconnects and activates the energy meridians. This enables life force energy to be circulated through blockages in the meridian system to the necessary organs and tissue, this helps to explain why placing a needle, physical pressure, in one area of the body has an effect throughout the entire system.
Yin Yoga is quite often described as acupuncture without the pins! Personally I describe it as the marmite of Yoga, it is truly loved and truly hated around the world, quite often both in a single pose! But love it or hate it the benefits are profound. In Yin Yoga we rely on time and gravity to apply the above mentioned physical pressure on our connective tissue by means of a stretch or compression of the tissue from the superficial layer, the deeper layer, the subserous layer through to the dura mater fascia of the craniosacral system. The practice works on different levels physically, mentally, energetically and spiritually/quantum(ly).
Physically we are applying tension and/or compression to the tissue. With applied tension through a stretch we are working into the muscular and skeletal systems and layer of the fascia. Down at the skeletal layer we have periosteum which surrounds our bones, this periosteum is what connects our bone to muscle via the tendons. From this tendon we connect onto the muscle body via the fascia, epimysium, into the fascicle via more fascia, perimysium, into the muscle fibres via more fascia, endomysium, down into the sarcomere with the myofibrils of actin and myosin which are thick and thin filaments which when engaged contract, pull together, to shorten a given muscle to produce movement (the puppet on a string) across a joint. When these filaments are relaxed the muscle is then allowed to lengthen, stretch, and we know the importance of stretching before and after workouts to warm up the muscle tissue and to get hydration down into the deeper tissue layers and this is exactly what we're after in a yin pose the lengthening of these deeper layers. This lengthening allows all the nutrients from our blood to flow into the deeper layers and hydrate and nourish much like marinating a nice tenderloin. This motion also, along with the compression element, initiates this piezoelectrical stimulation into the fascia, the liquid crystalline network, and in turn energises the meridian channels throughout the entire body.
Mentally - Energetically - Spiritually/Quantum(ly) we will be looking at in more detail in future blogs as time has run away again...with many thanks for your time, I know it is precious so is greatly appreciated and humbling. If you have questions or would like to give this ancient practice of Yin Yoga a try please do not hesitate in getting in touch here.