Daily Stretches Targeted at Your Fascia
Working at goop has turned many of us into fascia nerds: Show us a foam rolling routine and we will show you someone on staff who has tried it.
So a year ago, when a group of us met Anna Rahe to take her class at GST Body, we felt like we knew what was coming. We were wrong.
The tools she uses in the studio are all in her Basic Body Kit, although she’s modified them below so that you can do without. And if you’re more of a visual or auditory learner, she has full-length classes (for free) on her site—try her Rise and Shine flow.
3 Steps for Daily Fascia Care
Just like caring for your skin, caring for your fascia can take the form of a daily ritual. You can think of these exercises as a top-shelf fascia-care line—at GST Body, we call it conscious conditioning.
Fascia is a webby tissue that starts in your skin and wraps around and layers deep into the body, organizing all parts and systems and building your body’s shape and form. But most importantly, fascia is an entire body system unto itself—which is why a daily ritual can be so nourishing.
Because fascia is essentially the undersurface of your skin, I like to use the analogy of a skin-care routine for the basics of fascia. There are three steps of fascia care in my world: 1) cleanse, 2) tone, and 3) hydrate.
MOVE: Compression Traction Wash
Stand with your feet wide and arms stretched overhead toward the sky.
Using a swinging action, drop your torso toward your legs as you bend your knees. As you bend forward, let your chest hit your thighs. Swing your torso back up so you’re standing vertically with both arms stretched straight to the sky again.
Eight repetitions make one set. Complete up to three sets.
MOVE: Torso Twist
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Reach your arms straight out to the sides.
Twist your spine to the right and left. Let your arms swing through space as you twist so that they follow the action of your spine. Your arms should be heavy and loose and free like the swings on an amusement park ride. Do not tighten your body—try to move with as much freedom as possible. You want to feel blood flowing toward your fingers.
Keep your rib cage lifted and expanded forward. Allow your abs to be loose and soft. Let your knees bend slightly so there is no tension in your pelvis.
To enhance the exercise, include this breathing pattern: Inhale to twist right and left once, then exhale to twist right and left again. Breathe vigorously, taking in as much air as possible and pushing it back out. When you exhale, force the air through your pursed lips as if you’re shushing someone.
One repetition is a complete twist right and left. Eight repetitions make one set. Complete up to three sets.
MOVE: Ticktock Rinse
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your right arm straight to the sky. Side bend your spine to the left and stretch as you continue facing forward.
Swing your torso and arm back toward the right and let your arm freely fall and swing clockwise across your body toward your left hip. Repeat the whole sequence: Swing your arm up overhead as you stretch your spine to the left and let your arm drop down to your side and across your body as you take your spine over to the right. Your arm and spine should imitate the ticktock action of a metronome.
Eight repetitions make one set. Do up to three sets, then repeat the motion with your left arm. Let your arm swing loosely, letting your hands hang heavy, so that you feel the blood rush to your fingertips.
MOVE: Superhero Stretch
We do this with our Tensegrity Suspension Straps in the studio, but this is an equipment-free version to try.
Start by facing a door. Stand twelve inches away and open your legs the same width as the door frame. Reach forward to place your hands as high up on the door frame as possible. Your body should be in an X shape.
Now try to slide your hands upward and out while at the same time pushing your feet into the floor and apart—so that your hands and feet are pushing with equal force in opposite directions. Make sure your ribs are slightly in front of your hips.
Your body will contract and tighten. Pull downward through your hips and upward through your arms.
To return to your starting position, maintain the pressure in your limbs as you use your lower abdominal muscles to pull your body back to standing vertical. This completes one repetition.
Eight repetitions make one set. Complete up to three sets.
Next level: Repeat steps 1 through 4 with both hands on the right side of the door and then again with both hands on the left side of the door.
MOVE: Compression Rolling
This move uses the GST Body Bar. You can try it with a wooden dowel if you have one.
Stand with the bar on the floor in front of you.
Step on the bar with your right foot and roll it up toward your toes and back toward your heel along the surface of your foot.
Each time you find a place of tension, stop rolling and push your foot against the bar to compress the tissue. Continue to roll the bar with your foot to put the fluid into motion.
Eight repetitions make one set. Do up to three sets. Repeat with the left foot.
Begin by laying the Body Bar on the floor so it is parallel to your spine. Position yourself on the bar so it sits on the muscles just to the right or left side of the spine. (Do NOT place the bar directly on your spine.) Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the floor, and extend your arms out to the sides in a T.
Roll your body on the stick to the right and left to pull the tissue under the bar away from your spine and out toward the sides of your body. The movements should be small and focused on the area directly next to your spine.
Do this with the bar on the right side of the spine and then repeat with it on the left side.
Do eight rolls or as many as feel good.
Place a mat or towel on the floor. Kneel on all fours, with your elbows on the floor. Clasp your hands and make two sides of a triangle with your forearms.
Place the top of your head on the mat centered in the triangle your arms created.
Roll your skull against the floor. Start in a pattern like a racing stripe on a helmet from your forehead to the back of your head.
Search for places where your head feels bumpy and tender as though you have Frankenstein stitches that prickle.
Each time you find a place of tension, stop moving and relax to let the weight of your head compress the tissue more against the floor. Repeat this pattern eight times or as many times as feel good. Take care not to overly stress your cervical spine by using too much pressure or pushing your chin too far toward your chest. Do not bear weight on your spine.
Once you have completed eight repetitions of the racing stripe pattern, move to other surface areas of your skull and repeat the same compression actions.
Bonus Feature: Total Body Balance
Lie on your back one last time. Take the weighted GST Body Bar and place it on your brow and the bridge of your nose where your sunglasses sit. Guide the bar with one hand on each side. Let the weight of the bar press into your brow.
Lie here for five minutes and allow your brain to feel a spreading sensation, similar to the way you felt your fascia spread elsewhere in your body.