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What is fascial unwinding?

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Fascial Unwinding, sometimes described as myofascial release is a fairly recent practice that has roots in bodywork and somatic therapies. Both access interoceptive pathways to bring the body to a resting state to allow intuitive and spontaneous movements to arise to revitalise the fascial system. Accessing this self-regulating blueprint allows the release of long-held patterns of strain, stuckness, and restricted motion whilst re-organising itself to restore integrity.

Interoception are sensations that arise from within to help us self-regulate. Hunger thirst and the urge to pee are some examples. Pandiculation the urge we feel to unwind when we wake up from restful sleep is another to help us restore and revitalise our body’s fascial system and is the blueprint for Fascial Unwinding.

What is fascia?

Fascia is the system that unites every other biological system in the body and is responsible for our well-being. A super-sensory organ that responds to the lightest touch, it connects body and mind and helps us heal through wholeness.

In this post, we refer to fascia as a connective tissue, a sensory organ of communication, and a system that integrates everything in our body.

Fascia is often described as a soft tissue network or a 3-dimensional web. A self-supporting structure made of collagen, elastin, and mostly water. It surrounds, interpenetrates, shapes separates, and supports every cell, muscle, bone, organ, nerve, and immune cells in your body. Orthopoedic surgeon Stephen Levin who describes the structural integrity of our body as biotensegrity describes fascia as “everything outside the cell”. Biotensegrity offers us clues into the spiral nature of the movements in fascial unwinding.

There is very little in the way of research, the most cited being this paper by Budiman Minasny, a professor of soil science in Sydney.

  1. The therapist applies gentle touch and stretching to the client's fascia.

  2. This stimulation activates mechanoreceptors in the fascia, which send signals to the central nervous system.

  3. The central nervous system interprets these signals as a suggestion to move the body into a more relaxed position.

  4. The central nervous system then generates ideomotor action, which is experienced by the client as an involuntary movement.

  5. This movement continues until the client reaches a state of ease.

The above is only a theory and is incomplete in exploring the pathway for unwinding. What it does offer for both manual and movement therapy is how the body comes to a resting state for movements to emerge.

This is exactly what happens in SomaSensing Body Unwinding. SomaSensing is the practice of bringing the body to a state of quiet rest.

Our fabric of embodiment

Whilst there is an ongoing discussion on whether fascia is a tissue, organ, or system, what’s emerging is that fascia is a process of embodiment that begins at the embryo stage and continues throughout our lifetime. It holds the blueprint of our original selves as well as our patterned selves, shaped by our life experiences from childhood. We hold habitual patterns of emotional stress, trauma, movement, and how we perceive the world.

Like any other living system, it responds to the stresses and strains of our everyday lives. We are adapting, shape-changing, self-regulating, and self-organising to keep us alive. Just like the urge to pee, we have a self-regulatory process to revitalise our fascial system. that provides the environment for life. Our fascial system. Fascial Unwinding is that process.

Fascia as a tissue when soft, plump, and supple reflects a state of vibrant health and well-being. Stiffness, strain, stuckness, fatigue, and pain are signs of fascia needing to be restored and recharged.

How does motion heal emotion?

Interoception is processed in a part of the brain called the insula cortex. Associated with pain perception, emotional awareness, self-awareness, and empathy. Heat palpitations, nausea or numbness linked to depression or anxiety are interoceptive signs of distress.

In Robert Schleip’s Fascia as a Sensory Organ. It’s the abundance of interstitial receptors in fascia that send us interoceptive sensations of pain or well-being. It’s the interstitial receptors that respond to light touch that we are accessing in Fascial Unwinding.

It’s this self-regulatory environment that offers insight into how trauma becomes held in the body and how we can heal trauma through our interoceptive awareness.

During a SomaSensing Body Unwinding session, there is often an emotional release or clients may describe how the body feels “juicy”, or how movements feel natural and effortless. Or how it reconnects them to their “inner child”. They are accessing their own inner wisdom. After a session, there is often a shift in their way of being accompanied by a sense of well-being.

Is fascial unwinding a movement or manual therapy?

It is both. Fascial unwinding manual therapy is a hands-on therapy with roots in myofascial release therapy. Myofascial release is based on:

Myo = muscle

Fascia = fascia

Today we use the term fascia to include muscle and everything else. A fascial unwinding manual session is great if you want to relax and let someone help you to unwind. During a fascial unwinding manual session, the practitioner gently guides the client's body through a series of slow, rhythmic movements, often in response to the client's own spontaneous movements. It's the practitioner's touch that invites fascia to "melt" and unwind. Helping to improve, breathing, flow, and nervous system regulation. Easing pain and discomfort.

It's not a stretch, it's a "phase change"

A phase change is when a gel-like substance changes from stiff to soft, or soft to stiff. Like silly putty. We think of phases of water as solid, liquid or, vapour. According to scientist Gerald Pollack, water has a 4th phase, a gel-like or liquid crystal state.

Our body is 70% water, held within the fascial system as gel or liquid crystal. Pollack describes this state as EZ. Water that is charged with an extra Hydrogen ion. Making it H30. This gel-like, plump, juicy stat provides the optimum environment and energy for our well-being. When we feel stiffness, strain or, inflammation, it’s a change in viscosity.

Another way of understanding phase change is Thixotrophy. How a substance becomes more viscous when you shake it. Think Mayonnaise or Tomato Ketchup.

Whatever the science, in fascial unwinding, we are relying on this phase change or “melting” sensation of stiff to soft during a session. As well as the feel-good nurturing sensation of oxytocin to calm the pain, we're looking to improve the gliding quality of the tissue, to release areas of stuckness or stickiness. Improving the overall health of the tissue.

Tapping into an innate wisdom

Fascial unwinding is based on the idea that the body has an innate ability to heal itself and that by facilitating this natural process, the practitioner can help the client release physical and emotional blockages and restore harmony and vitality to the body-mind system. In SomaSensing. you can explore this practice as a manual or movement therapy.

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