‘Fascia is the organ of posture’ according to the inimitable Ida Rolf, creator of Rolfing Therapy. And it is very sensitive to the emotional firings of our brain. Growing up in a state of chronic and unrelenting stress as in childhood trauma does not allow for the fascia to release the fight-flight-freeze stress responses.
Thus the spine is forced to grow within the constricted myofascial (Myo means muscle, and fascia means tissue) pattern of rigidity. Due to the fascia’s intricate connectivity from head to toe, tightness in one area has far-reaching structural problems in our entire body system. When the spine has inadequate space to grow it twists which is what scoliosis is about.
Unfortunately, modern medicine still terms scoliosis as idiopathic in most cases. It does not look into the cause just the symptom. Rather than understanding the emotional causes underlying this condition, the standard treatment for scoliosis is still bracing or surgery.
There are some newer therapies like Schroth that aim at pushing the spine into alignment. However, that works only superficially, if it does. Because scoliosis begins in our eyes. Our eyes get tilted, then the jaw, the neck, and so on down the spine. The root cause of scoliosis not addressed – our repressed emotions.
If only modern experts accepted the mind-body connection is a fact, so much suffering could have been avoided !!
So What Is The Fascia
Fascia is the largest sensory organ encompassing all other systems. It is a sheet of connective tissue, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. This interior scaffolding is made up primarily of collagen and elastin. Collagen gives fascia its sturdiness and elastin gives it its stretchability. Fascia is classified by layer, as superficial fascia, deep fascia, and visceral or parietal fascia, or by its function and anatomical location. It keeps everything separate and yet interconnected.
Fascia comes together to form tendons that attach the muscle to the bones. So any tightness and rigidity in the fascial tissue directly affect the position of our bones, particularly our spines.
The nervous system and fascia are inseparable interwoven. Any changes in our emotional landscape trigger changes in our fascial system. Hormones and emotions affect your fascia. What your brain is thinking, or feeling directly tightens or relaxes your fascia.
Emotional Fascia and Development of Scoliosis
Fascial mechanoreceptors (a type of somatosensory receptors) are intricately interwoven with the autonomic nervous system. The fascia contracts, or tightens, in response to ‘danger’ signals from the brain.
When a growing child feels unsafe physically or emotionally, the growing fascia is not allowed to relax and stretch. It remains in a state of impeded constriction. Over time, the muscles and fascia act like a vice to twist and pull the spine in a distorted manner.
Remember, our body is one interconnected system. The spine does not move by itself. If the bones are curving to one side it is because the muscles and fascia have shortened and are pulling the spine out of alignment.
Feelings are literally stored in the fascia and musculature of our bodies. They are coded in the cells, tissues, and organs of every bodily system. Posture, stance, and gait are all part of our past history – shaped by the neural circuitry of our emotional experiences.
Fear, shame, guilt, anger, helplessness, resentment can keep us fascia locked in a state of immobility. That’s how we remain stuck in our past.
The mind-body is an interconnected and inter-related system- neither works in a vacuum.
Feeling Not Good Enough and My Shrinking Fascia
Fascia shrinks and toughens in response to any kind of stress – physical, environmental, or psychological. So in order to release a tightened fascia, you need to be stress-free. Well, that may not always be possible but there are some ways we can reduce feeling stressed.
Now keep in mind your scoliosis happened during your growing years over a considerable period of time. Your body posture is frozen in time, at that period of emotional conflicts/abuse.
Unraveling years of the self-protective armoring mechanism take time. The most important step to releasing fascia is to stop interacting with negative or toxic people. Interpersonal neurobiology is a real thing. We affect people and people affect us – unless you are some kind of yogi – most of us are complex visceral beings.
I realized this when I moved away from a supposed friend who was nothing but a narcissist. Dealing with her set me back to where I started in my healing journey. For those of us coming from abusive homes, our nervous system is already dysregulated. Any perceived danger even if it is not so dangerous makes our body tighten even more.
They say scoliosis does not get worse once we are done with growing. But that is not the case I know that dealing with the secondary trauma and the shame of having scoliosis further tightened my fascia. Over time those added rejections and wounding became part of my internal belief system – not good enough. And my emotional fascia shrank even more and my scoliosis got worse.
Releasing Your Fascia and Healing Scoliosis
Since the fascia is affected by our emotions. we need to find ways to relax our nervous system. It has to be a 2-pronged strategy utilizing both mind and body. We need to release the emotional trauma in our brain while working on releasing the dysfunctional bodily patterns.
Emotions need to flow freely through the body. When we are forced to hold back emotion, we hold the breath to keep that emotion from releasing, And so it remains stuck in the fascia. Our body does keep score.
1) Emotional Safety
Having at least one safe relationship is critical in our healing. We need an enlightened witness who will validate our trauma stories and accept us without judgment. Only in the loving presence of another – be it a therapist, friend, sibling, adult-child we can change the distorted mirrors of ourselves. When we relax emotionally, automatically our fascia relaxes too.
2) Right Movement
The scoliotic pattern has become ingrained into our psyche and character. To change that we need to gently coax a different pattern of being. Fascia is affected by how we move or don’t.
Two important yogic poses that have been helped me change my internal mind-body state of being are the
1) Horse-stance or goddess pose ( Builds stamina and works
2) Simhasana (Lions pose) ( Stretches the tongue which plays an important role in spinal alignment)
Both are empowering poses that change you from the inside out.
The most important movement to release tightened fascia is crawling. It is a primal movement that is gentle but energetically, engages every part of your body.
Be mindful when you exercise to not be stressed in finishing the routine or else it could lead to further tightening.
3) Hydration and Keeping The Second-Brain Relaxed
Drink enough water and keep alcohol consumption in moderation. The fascia needs hydration to remain supple and elastic.
Our gut, the enteric nervous system is also known as the ‘second brain. Having some fermented stuff – probiotics help relax our enteric nervous system. According to The Psychobiotic Revolution, ‘good’ bacteria can secrete neurotransmitters so powerful that they rival the effects of Prozac, while “bad” bacteria can make substances that increase anxiety and depression.
4) Using Physical Aids
There are quite a few fascial release aids in the market from decompression balls, foam rollers, trigger point release aids, lacrosse balls, fascia and cellulite Blaster, etc. Check out what works for you, preferably something small that you can carry. Whenever you feel stressed you can take it out and calm yourself – like Linus’ security blanket.
I simply massage my face with a few drops of castor oil before bed and use a pumice stone on my calves and thighs because our calves are our second heart and are the first body-part to tighten up when stressed.
Having a warm Epson salt bath helps relax our tense myofascial system.
5) Body-Centered Therapies
There are numerous types of healing modalities to help release and reverse the hardening effects of the stress on the fascia and muscle tissue. These hands-on healing therapies help soften areas of myofascial tightness. Fresh blood begins to flow and the fascia becomes loose and elastic again. When fascia tissue begins to relax and stretch, the nervous system calms down.
Some of the body-based therapies are Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Therapy, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Active Release Therapy, Chiropractic Manipulations, Osteopathy, Swedish, Deep tissue, Shiatsu, Reflexology, Acupuncture acupressure, Rolfing, Lymphatic Drainage, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Somato-Emotional Release offers an advanced version of Cranio-Sacral Therapy.
I have only experienced a normal massage and find it very relaxing.
However, expecting body therapy to heal your scoliosis is expecting too much. On so many forums I’ve read how chiropractic therapy or myofascial therapy does not help heal scoliosis. And the real reason could be…
Why Body Therapies Alone Don’t Heal?
Dr. Arthur Janov of Primal Therapy has this to say about physical therapies:
Deep-lying trauma must be identified and dealt with as a whole — not selectively and temporarily by having its energy released via muscle manipulation. Massage therapy certainly helps one feel better for a while. Yet no one would say that it is curative.
Body therapists believe that restructuring the body by removing the armor not only relaxes the person physically and restores his posture
They believe that tense muscles cause tension rather than understanding that it is tension in holding back repressed feelings that causes tense muscles. This simple but fundamental error leads them to treat the symptom of tense musculature as the problem rather than as the result of a problem.
Massage and manipulation of special muscle groups without a thorough understanding of how those muscle groups tie into the brain. It is from the brain that the energy of repressed
Primal feelings are relived, posture straightens itself out. In short, posture is a memory, too — it is the reciprocal of the neural circuit.
David Lesondak – Fascia & the Mind/Body Connection
Changing Our Mind, Changing Our Body
Changing those bloody indoctrinated belief patterns are not so easy. Nonetheless, little by little one can do it. Therapy, writing about trauma ( helped me so much), listening to healing sound music, guided meditations, uplifting podcasts, and EFT-tapping.
I also make it a point to watch some comedy, Awkward puppets and Jeff Dunham always brings on deep belly laughter. Laughter releases our tightened nervous system. Moreover, uninhibited laughter releases those feel-good hormones which relax our tense musculature.
It all boils down to rewiring our brain and body to think, feel, and act differently.
Jon Burras, Bodywork expert and author of Return to Nature: The Five Pillars of Healing correctly sums up scoliosis:
Scoliosis is not a disease; it is a symptom of a deeper issue. Manipulating the spine alone will not solve the problem. Surgery is only a last resort measure. Healing will happen when the beliefs about the origin of the problem begin to emerge.
As I heal, the memories of feeling afraid, being shamed, guilt-tripped are slowly coming to the surface. Feeling and releasing these stuck emotions is relaxing my fascia. Since my mother died I had to silently repress my feelings and swallow my hurt and anger. And no surprise where it went – my body. Feelings buried alive never die.
All healing is incremental, gradually you realize that you no longer feel traumatized by a memory. You no longer feel small or overwhelmed with negative intrusive thoughts. And surprisingly, you actually no longer give a f**k about the people who hurt you. You are able to close that door.
Feeling free emotionally is freeing my tightened fascia. Every day I can see and feel my scoliosis improving. I remain ever optimistic
Image Source: Pexels
Myofascial Release ~ Ruth Duncan
Return to Nature: The Five Pillars of Healing ~ by Jon Burras
Shiatsu Theory and Practice ~ Carola Beresford-Cooke
The Oxytocin Factor – Kerstin Moberg
The Synaptic Self – Joseph LeDoux
The Feeling of What Happens – Antonio Damasio