Buzz is building about a “secret web” inside us that can radically transform the way we look and feel. Called fascia, it’s a kind of sheath that “wraps around each of our internal organs and connects them to our muscles and bones,” explains renowned women’s health expert Christiane Northrup, MD. “Fascia is largely responsible for the shape of our bodies.” Think of it as inner Spanx.
One problem: Inactivity and inflammation can cause fascia to bunch up and form knots of scar tissue, creating tightness and sore spots; the knots also slow blood and oxygen flow, zapping energy and stalling metabolism. Once you fix the problem, “you feel graceful, invigorated, unstoppable,” insists fascia expert Lauren Roxburgh, author of Taller, Slimmer, Younger ($15.15, Amazon). Plus, healthy fascia cinches you in and amps up fat burn. “Women drop a full pant size after a few quick fascia-smoothing sessions!”
By all accounts, targeting fascia works wonders — so why haven’t we been hearing about it for years? Well, while ancient healers and modern-day sports medicine pros have long manipulated the stuff to increase mobility and ease pain, no one realized its slimming potential until recently. Rumor has it an athlete’s girlfriend accidentally discovered his fascia-smoothing device made her cellulite disappear. (Turns out, when fascia becomes smooth and strong, it’s very good at flattening dimpled fat!) She spread the word, and the concept caught on fast. Stunning before-and-after photos of women using fascial exercises appeared on social media. Celebs hailed the approach as game-changing. One devotee even enthused, “My legs got smoother and smaller right away. It’s like magic.” No wonder fascia treatments went viral!
Fascia and Cellulite
As women rave, science has begun to back them up. European researchers confirm that fascia treatments reduce cellulite. And a study conducted by former University of Tampa professor Jacob Wilson, PhD, found that improving fascia reduces body fat and boosts metabolism. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv University scientists are conducting tests to see if applying pressure to fascia actually “pops” fat cells, allowing their contents to spill out and be flushed away. More research is needed, but experts agree there’s no need to wait since our overall health benefits greatly when fascia is in optimal shape.
Improving fascia can alleviate much of the limited mobility and pain we tend to blame on aging. “Healthy fascia is a fountain of youth!” says Dr. Northrup.
There are many ways to smooth and rejuvenate fascia. Some best bets: Roxburgh’s foam-roller exercises (see below) T-Tapp Fascia Fitness videos (at TTapp.com), and targeted yoga techniques like the ones used in DDP Yoga. Dr. Northrup also suggests checking out the MELT Method’s YouTube channel. All these approaches use a combination of pressure and stretching to loosen and iron out fascial kinks.
“It’s enjoyable, you can do it at home and it only takes about 20 minutes a few times a week,” promises Roxburgh. And did we mention benefits happen fast? “You can release superficial knots on your first try, which instantly improves mobility, circulation and even your ability to take deep breaths,” the pro says. That ups metabolism from the get-go. As more knots release over time, posture elongates and some women gain up to an inch of height. And the stronger and flatter your fascia becomes, the more it streamlines your figure.
For best results, experts advise eating to reduce fascia-damaging inflammation. That simply means skipping processed junk, dairy, and gluten in favor of lean protein, produce, healthy fat and smaller servings of unprocessed starch. Also smart: Drink plenty of water to help keep fascia hydrated and supple. Paired with fascia-healing movement, these strategies help women free themselves of joint pain, eliminate cellulite, and shrink by up to 18 inches in 14 days!
Moves to Try
These fascia-smoothing moves from Lauren Roxburgh’s The Power Source ($17.70, Amazon) zero in on trouble spots like your waist and thighs; they also help loosen tightness and relieve pain in your shoulders, lower back and more. Repeat each move eight times and run through the whole sequence three to four times, aiming for 20-minute sessions three times a week. The pro recommends a medium-density foam roller, like this one from OPTP ($49.95, Amazon). As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new diet or fitness plan.
For more information and exercises, check out Roxburgh’s new book, The Power Source or visit LaurenRoxburgh.com.
1. Shrink your waist.
With roller between your left rib cage and hip, support yourself with your left forearm and right hand lightly on roller. Inhale and use your belly to lift legs, heels together, keeping back straight. Exhale as you lower legs, hovering over the mat. Repeat on opposite side.
2. Firm your belly.
With roller under your lower back, keep upper back and shoulders on the floor and lift waist to a bridge position. Extend your legs to 90 degrees. Using hands for stability, inhale while alternating legs in a scissor kick. Exhale and draw legs back toward sky.
3. Smooth your thighs.
With roller on lower thighs, bring hands under your shoulders; inhale. Exhale and roll roller up thighs to hips, bringing feet together toward tailbone, knees spreading wide; allow chest to hover over the floor briefly, abs tight. Inhale and roll back to start position.
4. Tone all over.
Use forearms for stability as roller supports you from head to tailbone. Bend knees to 90 degrees, heels together. Lift shoulders, keeping neck long. Inhale and slowly extend one leg; exhale as you bring it back and switch.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.