Myofascial Release and Unwinding: “Kiss, Smile, Breathe, Repeat” and Fetal Position for Sleeping
The comments section of the Mindful Yawning Experiment post spawned an extremely useful conversation with a like-minded innovator, Andrew Hutchinson. Head over to those comments now and catch up with where I left off before my Skype conversation with him, then read the rest of this post.
any news about your discussion with Andrew Hutchinson? I am curious about the defnite technique
The conversation with Andrew was very interesting and I wish we had recorded it. We have talked about recording the next one.
Partly as a result of the conversation, I have been able to narrow the “definite mechanism of action” for any myofascial release/unwinding: This is simply running current through nerves so that they begin to shed the fascia that is adhered to them (and this is usually accompanied by “unwinding” motions such as the head or body rotating).
All successful methods use that mechanism of action. Yoga achieves it. While a yoga pose is being held, the nerve current that flows through the body and its limbs in order to maintain the pose also causes the wound soft tissue (fascia and other nerves) to unwind from around those active nerves. The reason so many yoga poses exist is a kind of “paint by numbers” system, throwing as many configurations of active nerves at you in the hope that you turn on the right ones for your specific problems.
What I personally do however is use “body scanning” — mindful awareness of tension points in my body — to find the most seriously wound bundles. I then run current through those areas, usually by gripping a muscle fed by those nerves, or by extending a limb and holding it. For example, simply bending the foot at the ankle upwards towards you can be felt all the way up to the shoulder, and fascia along this entire length can be caused to unwind from around the nerves — even all the way into the arm. I hold the pose while relaxing everything else and allow release/unwinding to take place.
Triggering such release while standing will often have my body begin to enter “tai chi”–style patterns of movement as it moves through more unwinding.
A key thing I discovered is that having the mouth open during this, and any other “nerve current flow” poses, causes the unwinds to happen much more easily and in a more pronounced way.
So, my current advice is that people practise yoga (for example) or custom stretches with their mouth open. I am completely interested in hearing your stories of what you observe by trying this.
My two most important guidelines are always the same, and should always be observed, for any such body work:
- There should be no sudden movements. Do everything slowly and never go beyond your body’s limits.
- There should be no pain. If there is, stop, because you are doing it wrong.
Andrew takes advantage of the effect different mouth configurations have on body-wide fascia/nerve unwinding by:
- Holding his head backwards to look at the sky, then making a “kiss” motion with his mouth, but holding his lips in the “pucker” — then turning his head slowly left to right, and along other axes. When making the pucker in this pose, you should be able to feel nerve current flowing all the way down into the base of the spine. The base of the spine is probably the most important “key centre” for unwinding to originate from.
- Also other facial expressions such as smiling, which also have body-wide effects.
His website is: http://www.kisssmilebreatherepeat.com
I was already aware of the kiss pattern as I had it in my notes from previous years. However, I had not considered making it a staple of my own method. I have now introduced it at certain times. I recommend beginners start out with the kiss method I just described to get used to inducing useful nerve current flows and to experience the unwinding that results. Then you can move on to trying your own custom stretches, grips, and so forth, when you’ve got a better idea of what works and what it feels like when something is unwinding — which I would describe as a “gushing” sensation along the length of the engaged nerves and fascia. Yoga practitioners have also long described the sensation of fascial release as “gushing” or other water-based terms.
Global unwinding is NOT quick (although strong positive results can be experienced quite soon in your practice). It will probably take many days or weeks of work before you experience genuine lightness and freedom in your body. This is a lifetime of adhesions you are releasing, so do not rush and expect it to be fixed in a matter of hours.
One other technique Andrew shared with me is a modified fetal position for sleeping. This position uses no pillow, which goes for any primal sleeping position. No pillow should be used for sleeping. The angular “crook neck” caused by the elevation of a pillow creates a choke point for fascial adhesion. Fascia coming in from the whole body can end up adhered and wound around the neck, clavicles, etc. through using a pillow. When it comes to this work, sleeping with a pillow is the devil. If you stop sleeping with a pillow, the body can release the fascia caught in this area by itself, during sleep, because the “stretch” is taken out of the fascia so it can slack off and move back to its correct position on its own.
Learning to sleep with no pillow gives better sleep and lets a lot of the work be done by the body itself in the night.
The fetal sleeping position we are recommending is as follows:
- Lie on your side. The shoulder in contact with the bed needs to be turned inwards so it is brought “into the body”. That arm can be straight so the hand is down by your waist, or the elbow can be bent so the hand it up by your face. Either is okay, so long as the shoulder is turned inwards and brought into the body.
- Place the other hand wherever it is comfortable (it will naturally find its place).
- The knees are bent slightly so the legs are slightly drawn up towards the body. This is therefore NOT a “full fetal position” (curled into a ball).
- The wrists need to be loose.
- While sleeping, place your awareness on your top lip just beneath your nose. This induces a primitive sleeping/healing trance whereby the reptile brain takes over the running of the body.
The arm on the ground lies on the rear of the shoulder so basically turn your palm of your hand to face your feet (and maybe a fraction more if it feels comfortable). With regards to angle relative to the upper body, i’ve found that to be successful in anywhere from anywhere between 90 degrees (to the upper body) to (approx) 45 degrees as it’s the “inward rotation” of the shoulder that’s more important. the upper arm is simply bent up with the palm facing the neck/throat/clavicle, wrist bent and “soft” almost tucked in under the chin. The one thing i’m not sure i emphasised enough though (i was going to email you regarding this anyway as i remembered this morning) is the “relaxing” and bending of the wrists – this is essential. I’ve know for a few years that the wrists had connections to various other body parts and functions and this practice backs that up more. You’ll feel the shift when you do it. You can feel the shift even when standing and you bring your hands up to chest level and relax the wrists, allowing the palms to face your chest with the back of your fingers lightly touching. I’m sure there’s something about the prayer position that relates to this as an early healing modality but i’ve yet to find any evidence to support this. not that i need it to validate it but finding something would be interesting.
Effectively, the whole position is about tucking up into a ball without actually tucking into a ball. You will feel as if you are but with the angle of the legs/hip not being that acute at all (and no need to tuck the head in either – this can actually be counter productive). It’s simply a feeling of being protected with feeling being the important word, something i know i don’t need to emphasise to you.
I realize that a picture would be most helpful. Andrew, if you are reading, could you possibly find us one?
I was surprised how easily I adapted to this primal sleeping position. It did not take long to let the body settle into it and to fall asleep. On the first night I tried it I awoke lying on my back with my body doing its own unwinding programme. This has since happened on other nights, too. So there are two benefits of sleeping like this: the first is that the body can do a lot of the unwinding work for you on autopilot, and the second is that if you are sleeping like this then you are not introducing more errors that modern sleep positions create.
Andrew, if you want to jump in and add some more guidance in the comments section, feel free!