How fascial unwinding can heal trauma
Fascial unwinding is an intuitive somatic movement. The body's innate way of healing in motion.
In SomaSensing, fascial “unwinding” is one of the intuitive movements that emerge during a fascia tuning practice. It arises when you tune into your sensory awareness and bring your body to a calm and quiet resonance. A quiescence as described by John Sharkey. Clinical Anatomist and fascia expert.
According to John Sharkey, fascia, like a musical instrument, has tuning pegs. Fascial unwinding is an intuitive motion that can access these fascial tuning pegs to bring the body to a healing resonance. In a fascia tuning practice, alongside unwinding. Expect to experience rocking, pulsing, coaxing, bouncing, rolling, and pandiculation. Like an inner dance, your body attunes itself, to restore harmony.
Whilst SomaSensing’s version of fascial unwinding originated through movement. John Barnes, Myofascial Unwinding is a similar approach that originated through his expertise as a bodyworker. Using hands-on techniques to bring the body to a resonance that allows what he called “Myofascial Unwinding” to arise. Adding to this knowledge and intuitive wisdom is Fascia educator Dr. Carol M. Davis, a seasoned bodyworker, practitioner, and educator of the John Barnes method.
Your body’s physical form is shaped by fascia, a connective tissue that is super sensory in nature. Intertwined with the nervous system, you are shaped by how you think, feel, move, or perhaps lack movement. The tissue comes under strain when we are in a fight/flight/freeze/fawn state in response to stress, anxiety, or trauma. Trauma can be “held” in the body. Resulting in chronic pain, inflammation, autoimmune conditions, frozen shoulder, fibromyalgia, and other ailments.
Fascia tuning heals trauma through the body innately. By
1. Interrupting the trauma response.
2. Calming inflammation and chronic pain, whilst reshaping the body.
3. Creating new sensory pathways to rewire the brain.
So why use the term unwinding?
It turns out that fascia is like a fabric, that winds, twists, wraps around, and turns inside out in a spiral pattern. We are born to move in a spiral motion. When babies learn to move. They move with ease following the nature of this spiral pattern. Next time you watch a baby move from sitting to standing, notice how that happens.
Anxiety, stress, and the lack of movement prevent us from accessing our movement blueprints. We feel stuck, stiff, or uncoordinated. Somatic practices awaken us from somatic amnesia, by reconnecting us to these original patterns.
When your mind is busy, lost in thought, or distracted. You barely notice how the body is taking the strain. Until the discomfort becomes noticeable. Or even unbearable. You may even describe feeling emotionally “wound up” in response to feeling stressed or anxious. Expressing the need to unwind and relax. Your language reflecting, perhaps, what you sense in your connective tissue.
Fascial gliding versus stretching
Stretching focuses on flexibility and mobility around a joint. Yet stiffness can happen in areas that stretching can’t get to.
A stretch suggests a motion that “lengthens”. Like an elastic band. Yet when the body moves intuitively. There is no stretch sensation. There is a gliding quality. The whole body moving in a winding/unwinding motion, from the inside out. It feels like you can get to those difficult-to-reach areas of strain or stuckness that a stretch just can’t get to. Just 10 minutes of unwinding can leave you feeling like you’ve just had an hour of therapeutic massage.
“Phase change” is how Fascia researcher Carla Stecco describes the change in density of the tissue from stiff to soft as it yields. “Phase change” is the term we learn in Physics to describe the changing phases of matter. We learn the 3 phases, solid, liquid, and gas. There is the 4th phase. A crystal gel. Like honey. Neither solid nor liquid. Just like honey fascia has a viscosity. It also has an elastic property. Making it viscoelastic.
Unwinding heals fascia
1. Improving the gliding quality of the tissue.
2. Enhances resilience and our ability to bounce back.
3. Builds our capacity to store energy.
4. Triggers the release of Oxytocin. The nurture hormone.
What is Fascia?
The question is what isn’t fascia. It’s everywhere. It shapes your skin, bones, muscle, saliva, and everything in between. Designed to move and heal in a particular way. At the early embryo stage, fascia is in a gel-like form called mesenchyme. Containing stem cells and your somatic blueprints that become you. Including your movement blueprints. With the right nurturing environment, we access this inner wisdom. Self-emerging and shape-changing to nature’s tune.
At Embryo state, stem cells differentiate to become skin, organs, nerves, blood, ligaments muscle, bone, as well as the fascial fibers collagen and elastin. It’s how fascia takes on many forms. From dense to loose. Differing phases/densities of the same tissue. The many forms of fascia are referred to as the fascial matrix.
Fascia expert and clinical anatomist, John Sharkey describes what he sees in his dissection lab. One continuous fabric. No beginning and no end. There are no separate muscles, tendons, or ligaments. No layers. There are differentiations and a hierarchy in the body based on density, form, and the function that fascia plays in the body. Fascia becomes living origami through motion. A living fabric bathed in a gel. Forming folds and tubes within a tube. Move one part and the whole body responds. There are no empty spaces in the body. The gel is bound water. Hyaluronan being the water-binding molecule. The same molecule that is found in anti-aging creams, to plump up wrinkles! In fascia, it offers a gliding moisturizing quality. Making fascia plump, springy, and supple when healthy. Becoming sticky, stiff, and inflamed under strain or when stagnant.
Fascia as a felt sense
Fascia is like a sixth sense. According to Robert Schliep, a renowned fascia researcher. Fascia is also the largest sensory organ of your body. Intimately connected with the nervous system. Embedded with millions of nerve endings called mechanoreceptors.
John Sharkey, on the other hand, together with Stephen Levin, founder of bio tensegrity, believe that fascia has a sensory quality that is quicker to respond than the mechanoreceptors of the nervous system. Biotensegrity describes the way fascia shapes the body’s living architecture. A spiral geometry based on the principles of all living organisms.
“The electromagnetic nature of the “living matrix”, independent of the nervous system”. This is how James Oschman, cellular biologist and expert in energy medicine, describes the sensing nature of fascia. This would include biophotons or light energy. He describes how living cells vibrate to a particular frequency and have a self-healing ability at a particular resonance. A scientific contributor in the healing practice of “earthing” or “grounding”. He points to sea water as the most efficient conductor of healing energy.
As a somatic therapist. I am guided by my felt sense and remain curious about the emerging science. It keeps me wondering about the nature of our design. Inviting me to explore different ways to tune in to this remarkable living tissue.
Fascia as a sensory organ of the nervous system.
Fascia is abundant with nerve endings called mechanoreceptors. Both proprioceptors, associated with motion and interoceptors, associated with emotion. Relying on each other to offer ease and efficiency in motion. Whilst also responding to information coming in through your 5 senses.
Your senses are the part of your autonomic nervous system that help you stay alive.
Place your hand on a hot plate and you immediately withdraw. Avoiding the threat of burning yourself. We move towards what feels pleasant or away from what feels unpleasant or threatening. Whether that threat is real or perceived.
The brain is the part of the nervous system that learns to recognise what we sense as harmful or hurtful. To keep us safe. The problem is that your body physiology responds to a perceived threat in the same way as if it were real.
Take a harmless house spider for example. Some may fly into a panic at a sight of one. Whilst my friend who studies them for a living has an absolute fascination. His body physiology, as you can imagine is the complete opposite of someone who finds them a threat.
Dr. Stephen Porges, professor of Psychiatry and founder of The Polyvagal theory, calls this sensory association, Neuroception. How, from the time we’re born, we make a distinction between what feels safe, dangerous, or threatening. We are wired for this to happen unconsciously. Which makes it difficult to change a pattern of anxiety, curb addiction, or shift a habit by changing how you think.
To heal trauma. Create a new sensory pathway
In SomaSensing we guide you to
1. Connect to interoceptive awareness in a way that helps you calm distress.
2. Tune into your fascia to connect with your original design.
3. Find the quiet and allow the urge to move to emerge.
Interoception describes the sensations that arise from within the body to inform you of how you’re feeling. Butterflies in your tummy for example. Or what your body needs to restore homeostasis. Like, hunger, thirst, the urge to pee. Fascia has interoceptive sensations that are linked to the mechanical response to a sensory stimulus. Shaping our posture to reflect our state of mind.
Learning how to tune into fascia as in interoceptive sense can help us heal trauma without having to talk about it.
Other sensory pathways that shape us are.
Exteroception – Sensory input from the outside in, through your five senses.
Proprioception – Sensations linked to body position, balance, motion, weight distribution, force.
Find the urge to unwind in 3 steps.
Start on the ground. Lying on your back. Knees bent
1. Can you find your place of rest? Find what feels most comfortable?
2. As your body comes to rest, can you let it adjust? You don't have to be still. You may have the urge to move. A little twitch here or there. As your body softens to ease any strain.
3. As you come to quiet, you may notice the pelvis starts rocking. Can you notice that? How can that happen in a soothing way? Where does that take you? Can you let your body find its way?