Have you ever walked in to get a massage and halfway through found yourself having a vivid recollection of an event that you didn’t even know you remembered? If you have, then maybe it makes sense when I ask the question, “Are memories stored in the fascia?” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, bear with me as I try to unwrap this controversial subject from my perspective.
If you read our latest blog post about fascia and the nervous system, you might recall Elisha saying, “If our life is a story, the fascia is the paper and the nervous system is the pen.” I believe when we have life experiences that aren’t fully “processed” they actually get stored as visceral memories that are physically manifested on the fascia. And if you’ve ever experienced this visceral memory recall when having bodywork done, I’m guessing the memory wasn’t a mild memory with no emotional association. I’m not exactly sure how to describe what I’ve felt in my bodywork experiences, but when I say “visceral recall,” I basically mean an intellectual remembering of an event that’s associated with an intense emotion. Typically the memories that get brought to the surface through bodywork are have a high level of intensity. I believe they are typically unprocessed or partially processed traumas that we store away in the body so we can survive in the moment.
It’s much easier for the mind to forget than the body.
I know this concept visceral memories getting stored in the fascia is a little fringe and woo woo to a lot of people, but there has been some investigation into this subject from a scientific perspective. Some of the most thorough scientific examination I’ve seen of this concept is by a guy named Paolo Tozzi, an osteopath who has a fascinating Pub Med article titled “Does Fascia Hold Memories?”. He dives deep into this subject attacking it from a few different angles, and ultimately concludes, “In light of what has been discussed in this editorial, it is suggested that a possibility may exist that manual therapy might affect various forms of memory, producing profound tissue changes from subatomic to global effects.”
So does fascia really store memories? Well, we don’t fully understand how, but most likely. And if you’re a bodyworker or have experienced memories coming to the surface while getting worked on, you’ll have a hard time being convinced that this isn’t true.
I find that this phenomenon of stored memories being brought to the surface through bodywork, is somewhat common with Elisha’s work (Kinetix) when you start getting worked on. In our Q&A video I describe an example of a memory surfacing through fascial release (Kinetix). The first time Elisha stepped on my IT bands it was incredibly intense, and I was having a very visceral recall of the last few miles of the first marathon I ran where I stopped listening to my body and pushed through a knee injury that put me out for almost 9 months.
I believe my knee injury is an example of a trauma that was only partially processed and stored in my fascia. While these visceral recollections can be as simple as an old knee injury, they can be as complex and painful as unprocessed sexual trauma. I had an experience getting massaged by Elisha that brought about visuals with intense emotional associations that felt like memories, yet I had no “conscious” memory of them before that experience. I don’t know if it’s necessarily important to figure out whether or not your experience is a real memory, ancestral trauma, or something that’s a part of your psyche for some inexplicable reason.
What I believe (and have felt) is that moving these stored memories through your body can provide positive and physical and psychological benefits.
Ultimately if you can engage in an activity that gives you more freedom in your mind and body in a lasting and meaningful way, that’s a great thing. I find this conversation incredibly fascinating, and the implications of what’s being discovered in the arena of fascia and memories are huge. I’m somewhat reluctant to talk about because of how fringe it is right now, but I can’t deny my personal experience, and we’re beginning to aggregate more and more scientific and anecdotal evidence that fascia holds memories. What Elisha is doing working with fascia is incredibly powerful, and the more we understand about how fascia is related to memory, the more we can use it to free up our bodies and minds.
I can’t wait to hear back from everyone on this. Have you ever had visceral memory recall while getting body work done? Have you experienced this phenomenon in other contexts? What memories were conjured up? Was your experience positive and why or why not? If you’re a bodyworker, have you experienced visceral memories surfacing with your clients?
Please share this post if you’ve had issues/experience with fascia and memories or if you want to contribute to the conversation. If you have comments or questions drop them below! And if you enjoyed this Mobility Mastery Q&A and have a question that you’d like us to feature, please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can surprise Elisha with them :).
See ya next time,