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Monthly Archives February 2017

Get Out Of Pain: Muscles Vs. Fascia [Yoga Therapy Insights]

In this segment of a Yoga Therapy Program Q&A session, Brandt Passalacqua, founder of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, discusses why exercises that strengthen muscles and promote muscular balance should be prioritized over simply reshaping fascia.

Fascia Reshaping Vs. Muscle Strengthening


Brandt Passalaqua: First full disclosure, I am a very advanced myofascial massage therapist so I have a very intimate relationship with fascia so I’m with you. Fascinating, incredibly important, you know what I mean, a really good way to think. You can correct fascial imbalances with passive things like you could drape somebody in a backbend over a yoga ball for 20 minutes, the fascia’s going to shift but in terms of teaching somebody how to change their structure so their fascia ends up in the right place, again you’ve got to bring it back to muscles. So the most important thing is that and then thinking fascially becomes sort of, I hesitate to say this but, it becomes secondary in terms of its practicality. 

Student: Uh Huh

Brandt: I mean there are other ways to think about it I mean I know a lot of people do you know have taken stuff with Tom Meyers who’s like you know the king of fascia right. 

Student: uh huh, uh huh

Brandt: He invented the concept of the you know the book, he wrote the book with the lines in them. And so anytime you’re doing yoga, I mean yoga’s Asana is a very fascial experience right if you just like hold poses because it sort of gets you in touch with you know the pull across your chest and triangle maybe or whatever right and that’s all fascia but the fascia, my push back against that is that the fascia, if you look at a cadaver which I’ve done I don’t know have you ever done cadaver viewing ever

Student: No

Brandt: If you cut somebody open and really look at the fascia and stare at it for a while, what you see is like these swaths of white you know or yellow usually in a cadaver fascia and then they’re wrapped in the muscle so there’s not really a good distinction so what the, 

Student: Alright

Brandt: I don’t know I’m just going to put you in this camp for a moment since you started by saying I only hear about fascia so with the 

Student: [laughing]

Brandt: [laughing] so with the fascia loving people you know obsessed people are like it’s all fascia, and they’re right because it’s all connected right. 

Student: Right

Brandt: But there’s another part of that which is like look you’re saying that but really muscles do something a little bit different. They’re totally connected but the muscles are the only thing that we can actually fire right so in terms of like action steps to get rid of pain, muscles are almost always required. 

Student: Okay, okay

Brandt: So you have to have a really good sense of how to tell somebody to strengthen and stretch muscles right and then 

Student: Yep

Brandt: in addition to that what we talk about is how the fascia sort of shapes you but I feel like I guess what’s happened, I use to actually be you know because I’m a myofascial guy, right like that’s like I do hands on fascial work on people you know and I’m really into it [laughs] but what you learn if you do that a long time is that you can reshape and change pain syndromes but until somebody resets their muscle structure so that they hold that, they’re going to be your client forever, you see what I mean

Student: Okay, yep I see what you mean

Brandt: So hence my obsession with strength

Student: Um hum, okay okay

Brandt: But you’re not really talking about different things is my point of the wrap right. You got red muscle with white fascia swirling through it. 

Student: Right

Brandt: So how different is it really. Look, we’re in this course to think about being like general yoga therapy practitioners. So to be balanced, that’s why I do talk about fascia because it’s super important but if you went on the fascial thinking all the way, what we, what you do is you’d have people on props for long periods of time reshaping themselves right. 

Student: Right

Brandt: Like that would be one of the conclusions you could come to and the disservice you would be doing that person, I mean there would be a great service where you’re reshaping their fascia right, and I you know like every yoga asana doing person I do lots of fascial reshaping, restorative kind of things right

Student: uh huh

Brandt: But the disservice you would be doing the person is not teaching them how to keep that fascia where it needs to be right, like in a, while they’re walking around the world.

Student: Okay and that’s strength right that we’re saying, that that’s where the…

Brandt: Ya well that’s yah that’s muscle balance. It’s muscular balance

Student: Okay

Brandt: Which is the same thing because then the fascia goes where it needs to be in other words, if 

Student: Ah

Brandt: the muscles in the back, in your upper back are weak and you’re like this all the time, your fascia is now in this shape

Student: Oh, Ok

Brandt: and we could say, one approach would say we’re going to reshape the fascia by doing this, and another thing to say would be like we’re going to stretch these muscle, it’s the same thing and then another way to think about it is we’re going to do a lot of cobras to strengthen your muscles so that you’re like this muscularly and the fascia will follow.

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Yoga Therapy For High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure affects 1 in 3 adults in the United States and puts them at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Here are a few ways yoga therapy can be useful for helping manage high blood pressure.

Benefits of yoga to lower blood pressure

  • Yoga can make muscles more pliable which may correlate to less arterial stiffness. A study in the American Journal of Physiology found that a simple sit and reach test in people over 40 could indicate arterial stiffness. So it is a possibility that more flexibility could correlate with less stiffness in the arteries.
  • Reduced stress levels and associated hormone levels help lower blood pressure. Numerous studies have found that doing yoga poses for high blood pressure reduces cortisol (stress hormone levels). Asana, pranayama, and meditation all have the ability to shift stress levels and tone the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Yoga has been shown not only to reduce blood pressure levels, it also helps to reduce blood glucose, cholesterol, and body weight. These are the major factors for risk of heart attack and strokes.

These results have been noted in yoga studies using various yoga techniques.

How can a Yoga Therapist help reduce blood pressure

A qualified Yoga Therapist can individualize a practice for their clients—the key to providing the right kind of yoga is to help with specific conditions. (Some yoga poses are contraindicated for high blood pressure for example, some inversions or poses that put pressure on abdomen raising bp.)

To achieve the optimal stress-reducing benefits of yoga, practices should be custom tailored to your personal makeup. In the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy model, we assess clients and offer specific asana, breathing, and meditation practices to best address a client’s stressors on all levels in order to bring the system back into balance. For instance, while meditation, in general, is good for reducing blood pressure, a Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapist would assign a particular meditation practice that matches the symptoms and Ayurvedic imbalances. In this way, clients achieve greater results as reducing their blood pressure than a generalized approach to their condition.

I have seen many clients improve their blood pressure numbers with yoga therapy, as well as, personally reaping the benefits of reducing my own blood pressure with practice. I encourage anyone struggling with this condition to reach out to us or to a well-qualified Yoga Therapist to begin the process of learning how to reduce their blood pressure and take control of their health.

As always, please use yoga therapy in conjunction with western health care. We are stronger together.

Om Shanti,

Brandt Passalaqua
Director and Lead Teacher, Breathing Deeply

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