We live in a culture that is out of touch with the human body living its natural habitat. Our paleolithic ancestors were bipedal, meaning that they moved on two feet, whether it was walking or running. When the industrial revolution occurred in the 1800s, everything changed dramatically. Humans found themselves sitting down for long periods of time.
Today, we are heavily influenced by sedentary lifestyles, as we spend long hours slumped over a desk, driving a car, sitting on an airplane, or watching TV after work. If we do end up exercising, we do so with bad posture. As a personal trainer, I have been absorbing a new trend of workout systems that have been around for many years, and are now being marketed across the Middle East.
We need to counteract the deficiencies of the human body that inhibit us from achieving homeostasis (internal stability). If we can achieve homeostasis, our physiology, muscular system and immune system will all become balanced.
Certain muscles in our body become overactive and shortened, and need releasing and deep-tissue therapy. For every action in muscles there is an opposite reaction, so if one muscle is overactive / shortened, there will be an underactive / lengthened muscle on the other end.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting and presenting a posture workshop with Al Arabiya News staff. As their job requires them to sit for long periods, my goal was to create awareness about which particular muscles would be overactive / shortened and require myofascia release.
This is the basis of addressing most of our internal physical restrictions. Picture a baby and a piece of clay. A baby is very malleable just like a fresh piece of clay, as it can be moulded into many shapes and forms. Just like clay, as a baby grows older it establishes its form, and in time it will become a set organism, similar to clay developing a fixed capacity.
The difference between humans and clay is that we have the ability to neurologically rewire functional patterns in our body. As we become older and as the clay dries, there is a greater challenge to developing flexibility. So too with the lump of clay - as it dries, it is less inclined to change and likely to become fragile.
Utilizing myofascial release is equivalent to adding water to dried clay, therefore creating more malleability so it can be re-shaped for better functionality. The problem lies when people take a passive approach towards myofascial release, due to the fact that many of us lack the drive to leave our comfort zones.
I brought to the workshop one of the most versatile myofascia release tools, a lacrosse ball. Very firm and portable, it is ideal to help release two of the upper bodies tight muscle groups, the pectoralis major (chest) and the latissimus dorsi, the largest muscle of the back.
Both these muscles are known to be short / overactive as they are responsible for several actions. The main concern is how they internally rotate the humerus (arm bone), which in due course can lead us to develop a bad, rounded posture.
Pectoralis major (chest)
This muscle is potentially the most influential in terms of efficient posture dynamics linked to the shoulder. When the former is dysfunctional, it damages the latter. It also influences a forward head posture, and inhibits the ability to breath efficiently due to its attachments to the ribcage. By utilizing myofascia release on the pectoralis major, we encourage the body to become more balanced.
Use a wall corner for this myofascia technique. It is important that you turn out the arm of the side you are releasing, which opens the shoulder joint into a better position. Since this muscle attaches to the rib cage, taking deep breaths will encourage an active release. Keep the lacrosse ball on each tender area for two to five minutes.
Latissimus dorsi (back)
This muscle holds the most influence on the structure of the whole body. As we develop a rounded posture, our spine flexes forward (like when we bend over), which has a negative impact on the shoulder joint. It will then be difficult to bring the hands above the head without encountering restrictions. Improving the mobility of the lastissimus dorsi allows the body to build a better posture.
For effective myofascia release, place the ball at the centre of the muscle. Position your side against a wall, place the ball underneath the lateral border of your ribs, and open your arm at a 90-degree angle. Keep the ball on each tender area for two to five minutes.
If you cannot get hold of a lacrosse ball or find it too invasive for your first time, use a tennis ball for the first few weeks, then a cricket ball or lacrosse. Myofascia work can be done as many times throughout the day or week as you like, but I recommend once or twice a day. Anyone can benefit from applying these techniques. Myofascial release is the first priority throughout my day, as the results have been outstanding.
Vahdaneh Vahid was raised in the UK for most of her life, moving to Dubai in 2012 to progress her 10-year fitness career. As an Integrated Movement Practitioner, Vahid’s holistic method focuses on behaviours that create deficiencies in clients’ bodies.