Written by: Travis Eliot is a world-renowned yoga and meditation teacher, author, best known for creating life-changing programs, workshops, and training.
"Happy fascia equals a happy life."Years ago, I was walking across a pedestrian walkway when I noticed a car zooming straight toward me. In a split second, my brain computed that my best chance of survival was to jump straight up. This flash of insight was a good call, and it probably saved my life, or at the very least saved me from becoming crippled. When I came down from the jump, I crashed into the windshield, ricocheted off the car, and landed in the middle of a busy street in downtown Los Angeles.
Although I was grateful to be alive, I started experiencing chronic back pain and my knee buckling under me while walking. This meant no more running, jumping, and pretty much erased most athletic endeavors.
After many months of being resigned to this new reality, I discovered a practice called Yin Yoga. This form of yoga is where you passively hold floor stretches for three to five minutes. Although it's not rigorous like Power Yoga, it can be very challenging because it exposes physical tension and challenges the mind to transcend distraction and stimulation.
Miraculously Yin Yoga completely healed my injuries in a matter of just a few weeks. This sent me down an unexpected path where I started studying and teaching this unique form of yoga. What I came to learn, and shared about in my book, "A Journey Into Yin Yoga," was that the most extensive structures in the body are connective tissues. These tissues connect everything together from the surface of the skin all the way to the nucleus of every single cell.
Part of the connective tissue is the fascial matrix. Yin Yoga targets the deep fascia which envelops and penetrates the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. Most forms of fitness neglect the deep fascia.
Yin yoga helps us to achieve greater balance. Through practice we balance strength with flexibility. If we are all strength and no flexibility, then we are much more likely to break. This could manifest as an injury or even chronic pain. Also, the older we get, the dryer the deep fascia becomes, contributing to joint stiffness, muscle tightness, and the acceleration of the aging process.
Another one of the factors that make Yin Yoga so powerful is by increasing Hyaluronic Acid (HA). HA is often described as 'nature's moisturizer,' because it can attract and contain one thousand times its volume of water. This hydration is critical to our health, vitality, and well-being. As Leonardo da Vinci described, "Water is the driving force of nature."
This driving force provides circulation, and where there is circulation, there is regeneration which accelerates the internal healing process. Well-hydrated fascia is like the fountain of youth because the tissues become more sponge-like and resilient.
There is also a mental balance found in yin yoga. In modern day society we are incessantly bombarded with stress, stimulation and distraction. In fact, it's been estimated 90% of people are visiting a doctor due to stress related illness. So, balancing our busy life with well-deserved downtime isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. Through yin yoga we shift gears from the stress response to the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. Increasing parasympathetic activity is a healing medicine for the mind.