Today Brooke Taylor is on the blog, along with Katie Mrazek to talk all about flossing. And as you probably guessed, this post is not about flossing your teeth.
Fascia flossing. In their post you’re going to learn all about Brooke’s experience with flossing, the benefits, how & why you should get started, & Brooke even put together the best q&a with Kaita to answer your questions.
If you have yet to meet Brooke, she is the founder of The Road in Austin, where Lauryn frequents for facial acupuncture & sound healing. Brooke is magic and we’re so happy she’s back on the blog to introduce us all to Kaita & fascia flossing.
Let’s get into it.
At my acupuncture practice The Road in Austin, Texas, I (selfishly?!) expand services around treatments shown to help me age well, all while keeping things through the lense of Chinese medicine. I find if I stick to this model, the modalities help the majority of my patients in all stages of life. Lots of us spend our days sitting at a desk, creating tight hips, weak abs, rounded-in shoulders; we experience strained jaws from stress and clenching, have stiffness, tech neck, old injuries with scar tissue and adhesions, headaches, poor sleep. We complain of dehydration even though we’re guzzling water.
Recently, I became interested in how the fascia system impacts day-to-day life, aging well, and mobility. Reading Quench by Dana Cohen MD, Gina Bria) last year highlighted its importance in hydration of tissues. Considering acupuncture utilizes the system of fascia to communicate as well, it seems important to keep this system optimized.
Fascia covers every organ and all types of tissue in the body, head to toe (more on this in a minute) – and it is all connected, holding our organs in place and allowing us to stand up straight. More than this, fascia was relatively recently discovered to act as a superhighway for both electronic signals (piezoelectric) and fluids, like a garden hose that drips nutrients to the body. Over time, fascia gets bound up from things like sitting, repetitive motion, poor body mechanics, injury or illness, even pregnancy/childbirth. We feel this binding in our bodies as limited mobility, aches and pains, and interestingly, with ‘stuck’ emotions.
With increased awareness of how fascia functions and its importance (it has come a long way from the days of being literally discarded), there are now specialists who work with this tissue to help you ease pain and regain fluid movement. Enter ‘flossing.’
My personal experience with ‘flosser’ Kaita Mrazek began with a one-on-one table session to explore the sensations and technique. I just turned 58, I mostly sit for my job, and definitely feel ‘stuck’ – stiff, inflexible, and weaker than years prior. Ouch. I was keen to see if she could create a shift without me feeling overwhelmed or so sore I would procrastinate going again.
Kaita is a petite but powerful dancer, yogi and pilates instructor who has the open, welcoming vibe of someone who walks the walk without making you feel like you missed the bus. For my session, she has me lie on a massage table outfitted with a couple of straps so you can apply resistance without your limbs flailing around. After a little manual assessment, she begins the work of maneuvering limbs, sussing out where they need ‘exfoliation.’ To borrow a term from Chinese medicine, looking for where there is no ‘flow.’
The ensuing movements focus on expanding the fascia around the muscle – Kaita guides you to engage your muscles to apply pressure as you move to and fro with her support. It’s weird that I am almost instantly trembling with some moves – wow is that muscle weak! My mind is reeling, how did I get like this? (um, sitting?) She continues guiding the supported moves, adjusting angles here and there, until she assesses that there is the free flow she’s looking for without exhausting the muscle. She moves on, flossing from toe to head, limbs and joints.
The process can be intense – it’s not passive, I am sweating but it is very doable, even for someone as stiff and out of shape as I am. I did not always feel what she described finding in my first session – ‘oh this channel is tight, this is juicy,’ and so on, but I definitely noticed it when I got off the table. I felt taller, lighter … fluffier, my ankle/foot was resting on the floor entirely differently – like its more elevated youthful self.
I felt amazing!
The next day, I felt a little like I had used every machine in a gym, finding all the bits I haven’t used in years and giving them a little go. I rang her up to say, ‘this feels so amazing, I want to build on this, so what is next?’ Day two post-flossing, I felt more soreness. But that exact right amount where you feel like you’ve done something productive and are excited for more. My body feels awakened, alive, fired up!
She recommended one more one-on-one for me, then we began our group floor work the next week. Soon I started to floss at home. It can feel pretty awkward at first, these are not moves I have done before – you have to focus on how the muscle is engaged. But with time, you start to search out the sensations you now know will floss the fascia, and go with it. She did mention flossing can uncover where we’ve been compensating, so to be aware of new ‘weakness’ that shows itself.
The most exciting part for me of flossing our Stomach/Spleen in the Earth meridian series is how it is affecting my tight jaw post surgery. With no direct manipulation of the jaw, the flossing in this meridian throughout the lower body and abdomen significantly released tension in my TMJ. Kaita repeated the floor series for a before and after of her own face (see the post on Instagram), and the differences are a visible release of tension, a relaxation of the eye area, and a glow. I’m looking forward to exploring all the channels in future floss sessions.
Let’s talk to Kaita to discover the skinny on flossing.
Brooke Taylor: Hi Kaita! I’m loving all things flossing, so let’s dive in! Can you tell us, what is our modern understanding of fascia?
Katie Mrazek: Ooh yes! Fascia is really having a moment right now. There are all sorts of special tools being marketed to help your fascia. Foam rollers were some of the first on the scene, and now we’ve got fascia blasters and trigger point stuff galore.
In my own understanding of fascia, one of the most useful things to understand is that it is a ubiquitous substance in your body that provides interconnected, dynamic structure. It’s so pervasive that if you removed all of your additional parts—your bones, organs, muscles, etc. and just left your fascia, you’d be left with a ghost-like but still recognizable you! As you formed in the womb, the fascia provided scaffolding for your cells to organize and fill in. It is made up of mostly collagen, which means that it is a conductor.
My teachers have theorized that fascia is actually the way that qi travels throughout your body. When it is accumulated, it can be super strong—like your IT bands. When it is it thin, it can be quite elastic and pliable. It assumes different forms for different purposes throughout your body. I like to look at an orange as an example of fascia. The thick peel is accumulated fascia, but is the same substance as the pith—the connective tissue of the orange. When looking at an orange you can see how the white pith organizes the fruit into sections, and within the sections there are smaller sections. You can also see the variety of purposes for the substance: as a protective outer layer, to create segments, and to seal the inner sections so they stay juicy. Our fascia is quite similar to this in many ways!
BT: Where does the term ‘flossing’ come from, and why does our fascia need this work? Flossing is a term coined by my friend and collaborator, Bon Crotzer. After experiencing the work, and how it transforms fascia, your body really does feel flossed—as if the junk is removed, and things are squeaky clean.
KM: Your fascia can be changed, but not by the same methods that we use to condition our muscles. Some people feel a shift through modalities like deep tissue massage or Rolfing. These can be powerful methods, but they are limited because they can only address the superficial fascia—the stuff we can get to from the outside. Remember that fascia is so ubiquitous that it’s even providing structure for your organs. Imagine if you have a surgery, and you have deep layers of scar tissue. A technique like flossing makes it possible to get to the deeper stuff. When flossing, you engage your muscles while you elongate them. This tugs on the fascia in a way that reconfigures it, rehydrating it, and thinning it out where it has accumulated unnecessarily. It leads to a more lasting shift in your body.
BT: From observation, it looks like stretching – how does flossing benefit fascia differently than stretching? Or even muscle building like lunges?
KM: The key difference between conventional stretching and flossing is that we engage the muscles and stay engaged while we elongate them. To me, the most appealing thing (to my doing-lots-of-things-is-good mind) is that fascia is a multipurpose action—meaning that it is one thing we can do with multiple benefits. Busy folks might not feel they have time to train flexibility, have another session for strength building, another for body awareness, etc. But flossing is like everything all rolled into one. Because we are engaging our muscles while elongating, we are conditioning the muscles themselves, like in strength training. We are also protecting our joints, while reconfiguring our fascia which is often the actual culprit in our mobility issues.
BT: How did flossing enter your world of pilates and yoga, and how do you synthesize it into your other modalities for maximum benefit?
KM: Oh sheesh…this modality kept finding me! My movement identity is as a dancer first, and I’m also a certified Pilates teacher, Yoga teacher, and even have a couple personal trainer certs under my belt. I had been teaching movement for several years before I was first introduced to resistance flexibility in Santa Barbara, through Yoga Soup, the studio where I still teach.
I trained in the first level of the Genius of Flexibility, started by a man named Bob Cooley. He linked this type of stretching to the meridians of Chinese medicine.
I wasn’t quite ready to take the leap into applying it to my own teaching, but I continued exploring it in my own body and spending all of my free time getting a feel for it by assisting stretchers in Cooley’s method. Then I found Stretch to Win—Frederick Stretch Therapy, which is a paradigm that organizes the body into what they call the “fascial nets”—fascial pathways in the body that provide organizational structure.
The nets align nicely with the meridians of TCM. I’ve gone through two levels of their training where I learned better body mechanics for my methods, and more about the anatomy and biomechanics along the fascial pathways. But I think I truly embraced this modality and incorporated it into my teaching, when I co-founded an activewear brand, Ghost Flower, inspired by TCM. Bon and I taught movement classes focused on self-flossing and acupressure. I like to think that we drew inspiration from one another and the various movement practices we had both already trained in.
At that time, I got really into the Five Elements and applied the theories to movement. I learned to relate to the wisdom of Chinese medicine—a medicine that had previously been pretty opaque and esoteric for me. It helped that our consultant was Dr. Dan Keown, a brilliant author and doctor. I could ask him questions that seemed really basic, and he was able to link the physical body processes to the energetic descriptions I read about in Chinese medicine.
What I love most about flossing is that once you get it, you see how instinctive and natural it is. Watch any animal and you’ll see them engage their muscles before stretching. Watch old footage of Joseph Pilates or famous yogis and they are doing the same thing. Pilates is especially fun because you can use the springs to create the resistance. If I’m in a yoga class, I’m always secretly flossing my way through the moves, because it just feels better for my body.
BT: I was instantly drawn to what you do because you incorporate a deep understanding of the meridians according to Chinese medicine. You amaze me with your insight, from the energetics and pathways of the lines, their purpose, and even emotions associated with these meridians. I would love to hear how you came to study the channels for your practice, and how this informs your style of flossing.
KM: Aww thank you! I am blushing, especially because YOU are a wealth of wisdom!! I think that I learn best through following the interests of my own healing journey. I’ve always identified as an emotional type of person, who reads the room based around the emotions I feel from others, so I connected with the emotional resonances of the meridians most as I was learning about Chinese medicine.
The Five Elements made a lot of sense to me because they pair the meridians into yin/yang and categorize all sorts of personality characteristics to five main “types.” Similar to learning about your horoscope, I started identifying personalities and types described by the elements. I’m also very kinesthetic, so I learned a lot about the energetics of a meridian through my own flossing experiments.
I still remember flossing my quads (stomach meridian) and quite quickly experienced that I was more present, able to communicate and listen to others. I checked in with my TCM friend, who validated that those are qualities associated with the spleen/pancreas (which balances the stomach meridian). It was such a palpable moment that I started nerding-out on what happened when I would floss a specific meridian. I highly recommend keeping a little journal of notes for your own practice. My style of teaching attempts to create a container for students to explore and add their own personal flourishes based on what they uncover. My request is to be willing to engage with the process, be curious about what you discover, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, and become more discerning about what truly nourishes your body, mind, and spirit.
BT: How would you see someone’s flossing efforts contributing to their anti-aging efforts for their skin/appearance?
KM: Because our fascia is like a super-intricate wetsuit, as we floss and bring more balance to our form overall, we will have more balance in our body overall. Imagine your wetsuit has a little snag in it—that snag is going to tug everything at least a bit out of balance. Flossing can bring balance to our whole structure providing the space for our organs to work optimally—this generally leads to better digestion and thus healthier skin, and that radiance from within.
Balance also removes tension from places like our brow and jaw. For example, for my clients with TMJ, I will often work on their quads first—the big muscle group which is along the meridian that affects the jaw, and we see their face change. It’s amazing! Another hot topic lately is the lymphatic system, which flossing is super supportive for too. The fascia provides the structure for the lymph, so moving our muscles and fascia squeezes the lymphatic vessels in a way that promotes movement of the lymph.
BT: How do you transition from doing 1:1 to the floor sessions? Do I need to be a pro to be in a group?
KM: You do NOT need to be a pro to be in the group! But it is important that you understand the concept of flossing before jumping into a class. It can feel like the opposite of what you’ve learned about stretching when you begin, so it’s important to give yourself enough time and space to feel what it’s like to floss. One important thing to remember is that further is not necessarily better. Also, you will feel a different sensation than you might be used to feeling from traditional stretching, so its important to build new associations. Typically one to two 1:1 sessions is enough to get you up to speed.
BT: Can you floss with injuries?
KM: Hmm…I think that depends on the injury. Yes to some injuries. If you’re in an acute phase of your injury, I’d just rest and get to it when you’re more healed. And always consult your healthcare professional first!
For some injuries that are related to strained muscles, or your body out of balance, some focused flossing can be super beneficial. When my neck has gone out, or my shoulder feels janky, I personally turn to flossing. Flossing is also really helpful for recovering mobility and breaking up stubborn scar tissue after you’ve been cleared to exercise following a surgery or injury.
BT: What about postpartum – is this good for women?
KM: This can be super helpful postpartum! Again, you must make sure that you’re ready to get back to exercise. After my daughter was born, I was chomping at the bit to get moving again, and honestly, I probably should have given myself more time to just rest and be a mom. I think it’s important to acknowledge the pressure women feel to “get their body back” after having a baby (or some variation of expectation like that). I think that mode needs to be challenged. Your body has a lot of healing wisdom that is inherent, and it is so powerful to practice doing less.
That said, when the time is right, flossing is a potent and fab way to bring balance back to your body. Especially for the crucial activation and support of your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles.
BT: How do men benefit from flossing?
KM: Just like women benefit from flossing! Haha! Okay, I’ll try to answer this by considering what common issues that I see men for. Posture is a big one—tight hips and back—especially men who are athletes or former athletes, they know they are tight but don’t like to stretch.
Flossing is a multipurpose action, so they can feel strong and active while also addressing flexibility. I’ve worked with a lot of golfers, and the difference they feel in their hips and shoulders after one floss session is pretty cool. I love getting the text about how they played their best game ever after our session.
BT: Any contraindications?
KM: Use caution while pregnant, if you’re on any medications that can damage your tendons, and if you have any fractures.
BT: How do I get started?
KM: Austin locals can book at 1:1 session with me at The Road! If you’re not local, I teach live virtual classes hosted through my website, and have a handful of videos on demand for you to sample too.
Thank you Kaita!
See you at The Road!
4130 Spicewood Springs Road Suite 101/111, Austin, Texas 78759
The Road booking for Fascia 1:1
*Flossing at The Road by appointment Monday and Friday and by special request. Stay tuned for the next round of small group floor sessions, and try your one-on-one in the meantime.
Be sure to follow The Road and Kaita on IG. She offers virtual classes & you can book with her, one on one, at The Road.
x, The Skinny Confidential team
+ check this post on sound healing.
++ to hear more from Brooke, stalk her q&a on facial acupuncture.
#Unwind #Fascia #Regain #Movement #Flossing