Jay on How Yoga Can Improve the Health, Flexibility, and Mobility of Our Connective Tissue
by Jay MacDonald
I started to notice that space and freedom in my yoga practice and certain poses was shrinking. It was gradual – over a period of time – so it was not as obvious to me that something was not right in my spine at first. I was in a workshop with Libby Hinsley and she observed in my downward dog that my tailbone was tucked under and my ribs were flaring… as she tried to correct these it was obvious to me that the muscles and connective tissue really resisted any realignment attempts. I worked on these issues for a few months but could not really get anything to hold… my body was fighting too hard to stay as it was for some reason.
Fast forward to a 200 RYT weekend, I felt an electrical shock in my upper back and neck as I looked forward to jump from Down dog to mountain pose (just a standing forward fold). Then began the fun of dealing with a pinched nerve in my neck at C-7, which I was able to calm down by working with my knowledge of yoga and the awareness that my head position had drifted forward of my neck and my shoulders had also rounded forward… I did lots of massage, Restorative yoga, and any poses that would release my head and neck… all of which helped but I still felt the tension in my body fighting me every step of the way. I did get better slowly, but I still felt that I could do better but was not sure how to go about it. It did not escape my notice that the tucked tailbone and the upper cervical spine issues were related but I was not sure which issue to address first or what area of the spine to start with… it was frustrating in that I would see improvement and start to feel better but it seemed to easy for my body to get pulled back to the poor posture and position of the pelvis and neck.
I remembered that Tara Scarborough had been to a Myofascial Release seminar and when I asked her about it, she said that it was awesome and she offered to do a few practice sessions with me. Of course, I took her up on it and in the first session I was surprised at how gentle and unaggressive the work was on the body. I did have a few monkey mind thoughts of “this is not doing anything” or “this is too easy” but I found as I started to relax that my body started to unwind itself and it was the wildest feeling… at the end of that session I stood up and my tailbone was untucked and I felt several inches taller. I did a few more sessions with Tara and I was shocked at how effective the sessions were, considering that they were not painful or uncomfortable at all. I started to experiment with trying to recreate the releases on my own so I could start to “hold” the releases so my body would not rebound back into the old patterns. She and I worked together to find some that worked and I played around and found some on my own that helped.
I stopped doing the sessions with Tara, no idea why, and I did keep getting better but I should have done more sessions just to keep the momentum going in my body. Tara reached out to me a few months later, and mentioned that she wanted to go to the MFR seminar again as a refresher and asked if I wanted to go…something told me I needed to go, so I signed up and we went together this past April to the John Barnes Myofascial Release 1 in Kentucky. It was a magical experience and just reaffirmed to me how amazing this technique was for releasing deeply held patterns of tension and compensation in our bodies. We did postural assessments and I noticed some things in my hips and pelvis that I think had been going on in my body for a long time. We spent all weekend practicing different MFR techniques and it was incredible to feel the effects of those in our bodies. It felt as if my body was reorganizing itself in the best way. By the time I came back from that weekend, I was even more hooked on the benefits of MFR and wanted to share my experiences with others.
Anyone would benefit from the knowledge of how our connective tissue and fascia can get stuck in holding patterns where the tension in the body can create all kinds of restrictions and limitations with movement over time. It has been life-changing for me and I look forward to sharing my own experiences and knowledge as Tara and I explore the fascial system and how it impacts our overall health and well-being in our weekend immersion on connective tissue this May.