I used to think the discomfort I felt sitting or lying on hard surfaces was due to having a slight frame and limited padding over my bones. In theory, this logic makes sense; in reality, I saw regular examples of the opposite that showed me that my thinking was not quite right.
For instance, I had friends of a much larger frame who felt the same discomfort as me. Positioned for longer periods than average on hard ground, they would shift and squirm in just the same way.
When I worked overseas in refugee camps, I would see people the same size as me and sometimes less, happily sleeping on surfaces most western bodies would baulk at. Whilst I would attempt to support and swaddle myself in something soft, they would simply lie down on whatever was available and well– go to sleep.
In wasn’t until I learned about fascia that I really understood what was happening. It wasn’t to do with body size at all, or how much “cushioning” we perceived we did or didn’t have. It was to do with the adaptability of my fascia to respond to outside forces in a way that balanced the pressure from inside to out.
A healthy, hydrated fascial system responds to force with equal and opposing pressure- it actually requires pressure stimulation to be healthy. In the ideal world, if I was to lie on something hard, my internal pressure systems would respond by increasing pressure, so my internal world matched the exterior. This was the experience of my hard sleeping friends; their body had the ability to match internal and external pressure in a way that mine, at the time, did not.
For this to occur, we need nervous system that’s able to shape shift appropriately from sympathetic to parasympathetic depending on the circumstances and environment. Fascia- it’s adaptability and function- changes dramatically between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system states.
In the sympathetic system, it dehydrates to bring the bony surfaces together so I can increase my power and acceleration. It constricts and dehydrates.
If I live in my sympathetic system more often than not, however, I lose the adaptability of my fascia to respond. And over time, the ability of my body to hold its structure and integrity in the face of outside force becomes more and more compromised.
What I observe is when fascial tone is lacking, we begin to lack the same “emotional tone”. When we are no longer adaptable within the situations we find ourselves in, and as a result, we find ourselves doing one of two things:
1. We brace defensively as a “just in case” policy. “Just in case” we need to be on guard or “push back” we move through the world pre-empting something “coming at us”, which reflects in our posture, our behavior, and our attitudes to our experiences.
2. We are porous, with no capacity to either deflect or limit the amount of information coming in. As a consequence, we have no boundaries, no ability to recognize our limits and we end up easily drained and exhausted.
The answer lies in understanding the means to create nervous system adaptability but also understanding how our mind, body and spirit responds to experiences of pressure. Next week, I’m teaching a 4 part workshop with the amazing Josh Nichol, called Embracing Challenge: Exploring Peace, Energy and Balance Under Pressure where we discuss this and so much more.
You can learn more or sign up here:
Any questions, please feel free to ask!