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YOGA: Does it release fascia? Benefits + Risks of Yoga for People in Pain

Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and in the last decades of the 1900’s had a renaissance and is now found everywhere, even in small rural towns in the South (here in America). 

My first yoga class happened in 1997 at the YMCA in Ashland, Oregon. They only had the one class per week, and I don’t believe there was a yoga studio in Ashland as yoga was relegated to the weird and woo-woo and not at all mainstream yet. After just one class I fell in love with the way my body and nervous system felt after class. I reveled in the flow, the sequences, and found satisfaction solving the many “puzzles” of shapes they asked me to create with my body. 

Yoga and I have had an on off relationship ever since, mostly dependent on me finding teachers I love. Yoga didn’t become an obsession for me, unlike fascia release and mind body science. 

When fascia started becoming a buzzword in 2016-2017 it was extremely rare for yoga teachers or modalities to tie yoga in with fascia, but that changed really quickly. Suddenly in just about every yoga class I attended I heard “connective tissues” and “fascia”, and countless articles started popping up about fascia in yoga journals. Then I started hearing yoga teachers start telling people that yoga would help to release their fascia. This has been especially true with yin yoga, but certainly Vinyasa, Hatha and others. 

Many of my clients are yoga teachers and yoga devotees. Their fascia was, to a person, some of the most restricted and unhealthy I’ve felt. Especially the yin yoga folks who could put their feet behind their heads! If yoga released fascia, why was I feeling so many adhesions and restrictions in their fascia? 

Find out in today’s video. 

Plus, I share my top reasons for DOING yoga because there are many benefits and I am definitely a fan. 

IMPORTANT: if you’re in pain or injured, PLEASE consider the risks of yoga because there are many.

A lot of my clients came to me after yoga made their back pain, knee pain, shoulder or wrist pain worse. 

I see a lot of people running to a yoga class for pain relief, because they’ve been promised relief in a magazine, blog article or maybe a friend told them yoga cured their pain. 

While I definitely think yoga can be helpful and no doubt many people have experienced increased freedom through yoga, the fact is many many people injure themselves worse by trying yoga without knowing the risks. 

After moving to Durango, CO in August I’m still searching for a new place to do yoga, but it’s definitely on my list. I feel best when I go to yoga 1-2x/week. 

Do you love yoga? What are your reasons for going? Thoughts about today’s topic? Share below, I love hearing from you and we learn so much from each other.

12 Comments

  • John Levis says:

    Yes, I do love yoga and I’ve been teaching since 2002. I believe yoga should be done as a therapeutic practice. However, there are so many styles, intensities and perspectives of yoga these days that people have to understand that yoga can hurt you or it can heal you. This depends on your intention, the style and most importantly your teacher. The claims that yoga teachers make are often exaggerated or just plain not true. I think that this is a subject that should be looked at closely in any yoga teacher training. The practice of yoga may provide amazing benefits of wellbeing if done with this intention & with the right teacher.

    • Thank you for sharing John! I completely agree. I LOVE yoga, and I know so many people who have benefitted. And, so many people who have exacerbated an injury and felt a lot worse. The teacher thing is so important, it can make or break it for me. I appreciate you taking the time the share your thoughts and experience!

  • Brad Offutt says:

    Hey Elisha. One of my favorite techniques for self releasing fascia is called “ELDOA” I believe it’s amazing for Myo facial release. And I also use the Ming Method. Great stuff here too. Thanks for what you do.

    • Hey Brad, thanks for sharing! The Eldoa method appears (to me) to be a stretching method, and as such I don’t believe it would release fascial adhesions or restrictions. I’m a fan of using a multi-dimensional approach as needed for each person, so I love dynamic stretching and yoga and fascia release and hiking…etc 🙂

  • claire beach says:

    That sounds sensible to me. I remember husband going to a yoga clan many years ago. he’s super inflexible . This embarrassed him so much, he never went again.

    • I think this happens to a lot of people who probably need yoga the most! Stefan felt that way too initially, though he learned to enjoy the benefits of vinyasa yoga with the right teachers.

  • Emma says:

    Have you experienced Iyengar yoga? Have you experienced classes that use a range of equipment? Chairs, blocks, bolsters, straps etc? Have you had teachers make adjustments on your body during classes? It is usually used for remedial situations eg injuries and more mature bodied people.. As it is known to be more static and slower. Yet still dynamic iyengar also..
    Theres a difference between strength, alignment, stability and flexibility… And just flexibility… I agree flexibility only focused yoga is not supportive…
    Sometimes slower or static asana can bring us a little deeper internally and feeling sensations of the whole body, if its active stretching not just a falling. I feel I have released a lot of emotional stress, hidden stress and issues and over the years have less need to use oestopath, massage. Just the use of static can be tightening or problematic yet I also feel dynamic Movement without looking after joints, awareness of alignment.. is also problematic…i feel all styles of yoga have something to learn from the other…and other movement and somatic based practices.. As well as play!
    A question off topic… How do I release the density in the breast? If its connective tissue.. Its fascia right?

    • Hi Emma – I have taken many yoga classes that use straps, bolsters, blocks etc. It doesn’t release my fascia, as defined in this video. And – I LOVE YOGA. I tried to make that clear in my video! My goal is to empower individuals to know when/why to use yoga for THEIR body, and understand some of the marketing now being used that may not be accurate (as far as yoga releasing fascia). Yoga certainly involves the fascia, and can strengthen/lengthen and tone it. But not release it. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts! For breast tissue – you can do some self-release in the area, though there’s a lot more fat and lymph here than dense connective tissue. Working around the breast is also beneficial – pecs, sub-clavicular fascia, lats, intercostals/ribs, deltoids, sternum, diaphragm fascia…I’m releasing a diaphragm fascia release soon so stay tuned for that!

  • Kim Olbrich says:

    Firstly, thanks for all you do, and all you share. I am a HUGE fan! I have learned so much from you about MFR techniques and fascia. I am a yoga instructor and also a complete fascia nerd. So I guess many of us have a common goal in wanting to move pain free, with agility strength and balance. And to live a joyful life, happy in our own skin. Myofascial release is definitely a part of the recipe, and I believe yoga is too. So not ‘either/or’ but both/and:) And ‘yoga’ in the sense of fully integrating all the parts of you – body, breath, mind, heart, spirit. Sending love! Keep up this amazing work.

    • Hey Kim – thanks for sharing! I, too, LOVE yoga and believe in its healing powers. Yes to both/and. Not all fascia release methods or practitioners are created equal either, as with yoga. The teacher matters, the practitioner matters, and the individual empowering themselves to learn from all their choices and get to know their body so well that the healthy choices become intuitive.

  • kylie riggs says:

    Elisha,i guess I found you when you first started bringing your knowledge to the world and as a yoga/pilates teacher I was on the bus with you immediately.For a long time(teaching for 15 years)I did start out like many,parrotting my schooling but have been restless for a long time now. I would go to other yoga classes and walk out hurt…I would teach class and end up “hurt”..i felt that if that’s whats happening to me,then what is happening to my people.I became very anatomical in teaching and searched/researched to the point now I jokingly say that im the yoga teacher who doesn’t teach to “stretch”.Ha ha.In fact my classes now have become more movement pattern with the intention of mobility without losing joint stability.yes I have been guilty of saying we are “releasing fascia” but I now recognize that using the fascial lines that im integrating strength and mobility,not flexibility into the nervous system.Big believer in NO static stretching,just as you stated about the nervous system not responding to instability(stretch right?)The interstitium now being theorized as a SYSTEM itself might evolve our archaic choices over time..till then keep on bringing the fabulous content you constantly deliver. Big fangirl!!

    • Hi Kylie – awww, I loved reading this, thank you! Yoga is wonderful, and I love it…and just like anything else (including fascia release), it’s so important to know the risks/benefits and how every person is going to respond unique to them. I so appreciate your willingness to talk about parroting your training at first (we all do this), and learning to do your own research and I LOVE what you’re offering your students now, it sounds awesome!

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