What’s up, y’all? You know that we love our recovery days as much as we love our workouts, and if you follow us on the ‘gram, you’ve probably seen us post our fave techniques for rolling out and stretching. Even with our knowledge of recovery techniques, we were #educated when some dance friends introduced us to Margot J. Leviton, a highly skilled Myofascial Release Specialist of over 14 years visiting LA from Vancouver. Seeing how out of alignment we both are (oops!) Margot gave us each a complimentary release session, and schooled us on how and why we should put down our foam rollers for a second and pay attention to our fascia.
Read on to learn more about what “myofascial release” actually encompasses, our experiences from Margot’s sessions with us, and why this type of recovery work is definitely a wellness thing we should all add to our routines.
First things first, what is fascia?
Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds all of your your organs, bones, and muscles head to toe. It looks a little like Spider-Man’s web.
So, what is myofascial release?
Spoiler alert: it’s not foam rolling. We’ll let Margot, or as she goes by on Insta – Vancouver Healer (VH) – answer this one:
VH: Myofascial release is an oil-less technique where a very specific force is placed downward on your skin, sinking into the fascial layer of tissue, which is not muscle. (Pssst check out our video on Insta to sneak a peek at our sessions!)
What happens during a myofasical release session, and what does it feel like?
KJ: First, Margot had me stand in front of the wall to take ‘before’ pictures, analyzing my posture and alignment from the front, side, and back. She immediately told me my right hip was up, which made sense to me, because I’ve had some pain in my low back on the right side. She also asked what else had been bothering me and I told her about my tight hip flexors and my right big toe, which felt jammed ever since breaking in dance shoes the week before.
She had me lay down on her table and put a cozy blanket over me, saged the space, put on some rainforest sounds, and sat down next to me to start on my right leg. Even though I was bracing for pain like from a deep tissue massage, Margot basically just… held me! As I relaxed my leg into her hands, she moved it gently around and placed her hands on different spots on my leg and hips, explaining that she uses her hands to “listen” to the fascia. There was hardly any pressure and absolutely no pain, but as the hour went on I started to feel little shifts under the skin of my leg, and even though I thought Margot was moving her hands around – it was just my fascia moving on its own!
MR: It’s a pretty intimate experience, tbh. The movements are so gentle and incremental that you have no option but to connect with your breath, your body, and Margot, of course!
I came into this session with a lot of tension in my lower back, which I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. As soon as Margot got her hands on me she identified the culprit(s)… my quads and IT bands were insanely tight. This did not come as a shock to me at all since I only live in two modes: standing on concrete floor for hours or exercising like a maniac. I stretch often, but ever since I started working for Barry’s and kicked my workouts into overdrive, I can’t seem to break even (#aworkinprogress). The session went similarly to KJ’s – no pain, light pressure, crazy results.
How did you feel after?
KJ: Standing up, walking, and lifting my leg felt soooo light, easy, and airy. After she worked on my big toe, I had so much more mobility without any more pain! It was also amazing to see in my ‘after’ pictures how the alignment of my body changed! I’m so glad to say a few days later I still have that same range of motion in my hips and toe.
I was also extremely zen on my drive home and throughout the rest of the day. The next day I felt a little achy in my right hip flexors, which Margot explained is because I’d been stuck in a weird position for a long time, so now everything around my hip flexors was having to adjust to the new, correctly aligned position – you might feel similar after a good massage.
MR: So weightless, which is a new feeling for me after getting body work done. We have all been brainwashed by the “no pain, no gain” school of thought, but this is the exact opposite. I felt relaxed, grounded, and like my body, Margot, and I were all working together to make progress instead of me paying someone to force my body into uncomfortable positions in the name of “recovery”. This technique is truly unmatched.
What makes this recovery method different from others and how does it compare to other methods, like foam rolling?
VH: It all depends on your intent. I’m all for foam rolling, but it’s not fascial release – I call it “cookie doughing” – you’re really just focusing on your muscles. If you’re going to stretch like normal people usually stretch, you’re going to be stretching muscle. I would much more prefer people do fascial stretching instead (see tips on how to do this below!). We’re very flexed beings, so all of our problems with our back, low back, hips, and posture are going to come from our front – so focus on your hip flexors and chest.
IWT: Nothing else really, truly addresses our fascia, and Margot suggests we stretch our fascia three times a day (!!!). So here’s how we would structure our recovery methods throughout a day (if we were perfect lol):
- In the morning, before we start our day: foam roll, fascial stretching
- Before a workout: active stretch and/or foam roll
- After workout: static stretch and fascial stretch, plus if you have access to a vibration plate or tool that will help combat next-day soreness!
- Before bed: fascial stretch, foam roll
Why do we need it?
VH: It’s my personal belief that, after your skin, the first tissue to absorb trauma is your fascia – so all of your emotions, experiences, and traumatic events are stuck in that tissue. I believe that’s true because when I release it, people will cry or become emotional about a memory. From more of a wellness perspective than simply physical, I believe this release is so important because I see how everyone carries around the stresses and strains of the day, and if you don’t release that it becomes physical illness, injury, or disease.
KJ: In LA specifically, the amount that we’re driving each day means that we are constantly in a sitting position. If you’re an office worker, or even an instructor like me who is bending over all day, your upper back is probably already rounding forward a la RBG (love the woman, but not her posture). Exercise definitely helps combat these postural problems by working muscles in different directions, but it doesn’t address the fascia.
MR: Because the rushed stretching section at the end of a workout (if at all) could never offset what we ask our bodies to achieve daily. Even the simplest tasks and movements can accumulate stress over time, and myofascial release is the key to letting that shit go. *mic drop*
How can you do myofascial release on your own?
VH: If I go to stretch, I want to feel that pull of a stretch and then back off slightly into “nothing”. That’s when you’ll be at the fascial level and that tissue will start to release and you can go further.
*Side note: You can follow Margot on Insta @vancouverhealer for more stretching tips, fascia knowledge, and client testimonials! You can also hear Margot talk all things fascia on the JAM Podcast.
Rate it, baby!
Myofascial release isn’t rateable because it’s more than an experience, it’s a necessity! Training yourself to add this type of stretching (described by Margot above) into your daily routine is so important, and if you can find a practitioner in your area to give you a one-on-one session, please take advantage of it. Maybe we’ll do a #fascialreleasechallenge soon, so we can see how much of a difference we all see in our bodies in a month… #staytuned!