Stretch your Fascia to Stretch Yourself

When it comes to stretching or any kind of movement, we generally focus on our muscles — why wouldn’t we? They’re the complex structures that contract and expand as we move our bodies.

But our fascia, a bodywide web of fibrous tissue that attaches to and encases our muscles, organs and joints and separates them from each other, adds another layer of complexity to how our bodies work.

It’s distinct from the interior structures and systems it covers and can develop stiffness of its own from underuse, repetitive motion, injury, illness or other factors.

When it’s too tight it can limit your range of motion, cause muscles to form knots, restrict blood circulation and create numerous other issues. These can show up as plantar fasciitis at the bottom of your feet, as IT band syndrome around your knees or many other syndromes, even (especially) if you’re physically active.

But since your fascia is embedded into your muscles, how can you stretch it separately?

In fascial stretching, a form of physical therapy, a certified professional stretches your body for you through established techniques of pulling and pushing your muscles. But you can do it on your own at home or some other space where you can stretch in an unhurried fashion.

Here are some stretches you can incorporate into your home workouts to ease your fascia back to full elasticity:

Standing Backbend

Stand with hands interlaced on the back of the head, shoulders down. Draw abs in while slowly lifting the chest and arching the head, neck, and shoulders back. (Stop if you feel pain in your back). Hold for 10 breaths, then slowly lift up to standing. Do 2 reps.

Sliding Chest Extension

Lie face-down on a towel with arms out in front of you in a V shape and feet separated. Press into your palms and draw the shoulder blades down and then together. Bending your elbows in, use your back muscles to slide your body forward and lift your chest. When your wrists begin to peel off the floor, slide your body back to starting position. Do 8 reps.

Matador Circle

Stand holding towel taut in front of chest, elbows bent to either side. Reach your fists out to the right on a diagonal and then begin to circle them slowly, in front of your chest, out to the left, and back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep; do 8, then repeat in opposite direction.

Extended Twist

Lie face-down on mat with arms open to a wide T, gazing to the left. Tuck in your tailbone and draw abs in while lifting your left leg up and across the right leg, letting it lower toward the floor. Keep the left shoulder resting on the mat. Hold the twist for 30 seconds, breathing deeply, and repeat on the right.