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Myofascial Release From a Christian Perspective

Myofascial Release, to be referred to as MFR, is a type of bodywork that works with the connective tissues in the body, the fascia. As a Christian I know that I, as well as several others in the Church, have had reservations when it comes to MFR and craniosacral work which often go hand in hand. This is often due to the connection to the “spiritual” world that many therapists claim to experience and tap into when performing said therapies. This often causes Myofascial Release to be a slippery slope into New Age beliefs. However, used with a foundation on Biblical truth and scientific understanding it can be a game changer in the bodywork field. In fact, it can actually be used for God’s glory and even reflect the relationship between God and His children.

Before we get into this too deep, let's discuss what MFR is in a bit more detail. When watching a MFR session it might appear incredibly boring from a distance and even seem as though nothing is happening; like the therapist is just holding their hands on the patient watching the clock tick by. However, what you can not always see is what is going on underneath, between, and around their hands. What is actually happening is quite more complex than you might expect. Even before we get into the science of it too much, let’s get a handle on what to expect from an MFR session with a trained professional. The therapist first determines what they are trying to address, and then comes up with a plan of how to help the body to release it. Once they have chosen where they are going to work, they start by, yes, just placing their hands on the skin. Not pushing or forcing, just a soft relaxed hand. As the therapist patiently waits, the tissues they are working with begin softening and their hands will slowly melt deeper into the tissues. There is a fundamental time component when it comes to properly practicing MFR however which accounts for why it can appear as though nothing is happening. From when the therapist first places their hands on to when they remove them should be a minimum of five minutes. This first five minutes is broken down into smaller, equally important segments. For the first forty-five seconds of the move, the therapist simply rests on the skin; waiting for the fascia to “trust” their hands enough to let them through what is referred to as the “tissue barrier.” Once the practitioner feels this occur, they will either gently stretch the tissue between their hands apart or compress the tissue by bringing their hands toward each other. The therapist holds this position for the remainder of the ninety to one hundred and twenty seconds that it takes to get the entirety of the fascia to begin to release and allow their hands to stretch out the restrictions.

The complicated thing about MFR is that it is never quite the same. When working with fascia it is critical that the therapist “listens” to the fascia through their hands. “Feel” is one of those things that is not the easiest to explain in words, and often different people will feel slightly different things. Some therapists describe the fascia as fluttering beneath their hands or tingling like an electric impulse. Yet, there are an innumerable number of ways to perceive the liveliness of the connective tissue. It can feel as though the fascia is creating channels for their fingers to glide through; directing them to where they need to be for the body to find release. The practitioner is not actually the one causing the release. They simply put the fascia in a position that it can release itself.  For those that have never experienced this it sounds a bit strange, but you would be shocked just how effective this can be.

However, just being able to feel the activity beneath the skin is not always enough to bring about change. The therapist has to be able to discern where the body needs MFR, where the tissue is trying to “guide” them. The practitioner has to be able to trust their hands, not their mind, with the freedom to glide anywhere over the body. This can sometimes be conflicting because the fascia may lead you away from where the issue appears to be from the outside, but if the therapist lets go of what they believe to be the right course of action results almost always follow.

Now that we are on the same page as to what MFR is, let’s take a look at what it means to be a true reborn Christian. What is the gospel that Christians are always talking about? In order to explain this, you have to start at the beginning… We have all heard the story in Genesis 3 when both Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent, rebelling against the Lord’s perfect instruction for the first time; choosing themselves over God, they sinned. The world plunged into darkness. Because of this, every human is sinful, down to their core. No matter how much anyone may try, they can never be good enough to meet God’s perfect high standards, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). We are all deserving of eternal punishment in Hell. Yes, that’s a bit of a dark thought, but as much as we try to lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that we are not that bad, or maybe try to convince ourselves that there is no Hell, it is true. “For the wages of sin is death” and we have all sinned (Romans 6:23).

But that is NOT the end of the story! Our God is a compassionate God. And He is a merciful and gracious God; He does not leave us to our devices to self-destruct. So much so that “he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3;16). The God of the universe came down on to our broken world as Jesus, a humble carpenter. He began teaching about the kingdom of God and His words hit the world like a whirlwind. Not everyone accepted Him, however this was His plan all along. He was eventually sentenced to death on a cross. In that moment, God poured out his wrath on Jesus for all those that ask Him to forgive their sins. Jesus paid the penalty for the failings of those who believe in Him; He died, was laid in a tomb for three days, and then RAISED TO LIFE He beat death! So what is the gospel? Just that, that every person is broken and lost on their own on a one way road to hell. But God in His loving kindness came down to earth to pay the penalty we deserve so that we can be forgiven and made new in Him.

What does it mean to follow Jesus in your everyday life? Well, 1 John 2:6 tells us that, “whoever says he abides in Him [Jesus] ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” Paul takes it even a little further in Galatians 2:20 in saying that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The authors of the Bible, inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), are abundantly clear that there is no lukewarm when it comes to being a Christian. As Paul said, taking it to the extent of considering their old self was crucified and that it is no longer he that lives, but Christ living in him. Living as a Christian is all inclusive.

With this in mind, is it still okay to practice or receive MFR as a Christian? As someone who understands MFR and has done extensive research on whether or not I should continue to perform MFR on horses I have concluded that yes, it can be. Of course it can be; when done accurately and with the heart posture that God is the reason we can bring about healing in the body because He is the one that created the body and all its amazing attributes.

Think about it this way, God is the Healer. Matthew 9:35 tells us that Jesus healed every kind of sickness and disease. EVERY kind. The entire Bible points toward Him being the original Physician. In Genesis 1 God chose to make man in His own image. And because of this I believe that he gives us, His children, the ability to facilitate healing as well, in a multitude of different ways. Whether that is through traditional western medicine, holistic medicine and nutrition, or the electric energy that he infused into everything. When talking about energy it is not uncommon for people, Christians and non-Christians alike, to give you a bit of a side eye. It has a mystical sound to it that is hard to believe, partially because you cannot see it, and partially because it is just difficult to accept as fact when it’s not always talked about in the scientific community. This “energy,” in Hebrew, the “Ruakh”, is what He breathed into us, into all living things in Genesis 1. That same energy that our fingertips can feel while performing MFR was created by God, to honor Him. That does not mean that when we feel the sensation of this in an MFR session that we are tapping into some other dimension, or that we are becoming more in tune with the universe. We are simply becoming more aware of the incredibly intricate design of the Creator.

Taking it a step further, and this might step on a few toes, but you do not have to empty your mind to perform MFR, in the meditative sense anyway. There is a difference between being present and clear-headed and being in a meditative empty minded state. To be clear headed is just being present; not running a hundred different scenarios in your head, not planning what you are going to do next, not anxiously replaying the embarrassing moment the week before when your mouth failed to form the right words. It is just being aware and fully focused on the task at hand. It's being in complete control of your emotional state, being capable of bringing your energy both up and down, and most importantly keeping it steady.

If the horse that is receiving MFR suddenly panics from a plastic bag blowing in the breeze the therapist has to be able to stay calm and not react to the horse’s fright. God instilled in horses the incredible gift of such sensitive hearing that they can actually hear a human heartbeat from up to four feet away. Not only that, but in order to keep the herd connected horses will actually synchronize their heartbeats so that the instant one horse’s heartbeat elevates, it signals possible danger. It was recently found that horses will do this with people as well. So, if the therapist is in control of their mind, they will get control of their emotions, and with control of their emotions they get control of their heartbeat. If the therapist can keep their heart beating slow and steady most often the horse’s heart will stay in rhythm with them creating an environment of calmness and safety. This allows the horse the space to accept attention being brought to their restrictions or pain. This is not something that comes easily to horses being prey animals, they much prefer to bury their pain so as not to show weakness. This is why it is so necessary that therapists create a tranquil atmosphere by staying clear-headed and present.

Though I must admit it, I have not meditated much, if at all in the way most perceive mediation to be, I know enough about it to know that there is a difference. As I mentioned before, there is a difference between being clear-headed and being empty minded. If you are clear-headed, you are still fully using your brain, you are still thinking, seeing, and acknowledging what you are doing, but you are only concentrating on what is happening in the moment, unhurried and peaceful. To be empty minded as some MFR practitioners will claim you have to be while performing a session, while at first glance may appear to be the same, it is entirely different. Being empty minded entails focusing on one thing within yourself, often the breath, with a goal of complete lack of thought. Though very few people get that far, or even care to take meditation that far, by focusing on, let's say the breath, you are taking your focus off of what you are doing and putting it on yourself, essentially distracting yourself from the task at hand.

The reason it is believed that MFR practitioners must do this is because their logical mind tends to get in the way of following the fascia. They get stuck trying to do things to the tissue and forget to allow their hands the freedom to flow with it. Just because this can be the case, does not mean that it is always the reality. Personally, I do not practice MFR in this way but choose to direct my attention to the buoyant tissues at my fingertips. Knowing that, as a human, I tend to get attached to the outcome. I make a conscious decision that I will follow the tissue wherever it is leading, to whatever depth it places me, even if it is the opposite of what my brain is telling me would be best. AND IT WORKS. Time and time again I have watched both horses and humans reach relief by working with fascia in this way. The more success I see the easier it is to let go of my assumptions and hone-in on what the body needs.

During my time studying MFR I made the surprising discovery that the relationship between fascia and the practitioner can actually reflect our relationship with Christ. Though it is not a perfect metaphor, it is certainly noticeable. One of the first elements of similarity that came to my attention is what was just discussed. The fascia will guide the therapist to where they need to be; if the therapist ignores this, there may still be some degree of benefit, but the overall goal will not have been achieved. The horse will not gain nearly as much from the session if the therapist goes their own way, doing what their eyes and logical mind sees as best. This is so similar to the relationship we have with Jesus! He is our guide along the narrow path. Our sight is limited, if not nonexistent. We have no way of knowing what is going to happen. But God does. And He is willing to be our guide. Not only that, He wants to be. The Psalmist in 119 explains it as God’s word being “a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” He does not make the entire way clear to us, He just gives enough light for the next step.

We, by no means, have to go in the direction that God asks of us. However, if we choose to turn away from what He has set ahead of us, to what we perceive as the better, easier, more profitable option; instead leaning on our own understanding, it is likely that things will fall apart. Though it is still possible that good may come of it, or perhaps God will turn you around, and you’ll end up at the same destination He planned for you. Despite this, God’s path is always the right one. There may be discomfort and trails while navigating the road He set ahead, but it is the ultimate destination. Jeramiah 29:11 reminds us that God has written a future for you, and his plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. This is so similar to how MFR works. Just like how the therapist can look to their own understanding of where they assume fascia needs their hands to be, we can look to where we assume our life is supposed to be. We may take a detour in our route while performing MFR, or how we live, but if at any point we recognize our error, admit that we may not know what is best, and let either the fascia take the lead, or Jesus, we can still discover the best outcome.

The similarities do not end here. Another would be that there is constant communication between the therapist and the fascia, just like there is constant communication between God and His children. What I believe we can all relate to is that it may not always feel like this. While conversing with fascia one may feel no feedback at all sometimes and feel completely lost and on their own. This is exactly how it can feel at times in one’s relationship with Jesus; we can desperately be straining to hear an answer, and yet nothing but buzzing silence meets your ears. Nevertheless, He is still sitting beside you, He still hears you, He still sees you, He still loves you, and He will never abandon you. Moses, the author of Deuteronomy, makes it abundantly clear in 31:8 when talking to the Israelites by telling them that “[God] will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.” Though this is not an exact metaphor it is still worth noting. There are times when the therapist performing MFR, and the one receiving it, feel nothing at all. It can seem as if absolutely nothing is happening. However, the fascia is still interacting with the therapist’s hands, the healing process is still working its way through. There are even times when these bland sessions can end up having the most impact on the patient’s life.

Have I ruffled enough feathers yet? Well, just wait, because we are going to tackle what I believe the Bible tells us about “unwinding” next. What is an unwinding you may ask? I have a divergent theory about unwinding based on my own successful MFR sessions, so hear me out. When MFR therapists are working,the theory is that as the tissues are beginning to release, they may begin pulling the body in different directions. They are involuntary movements that the patient may not even be aware of. This could be displayed as a person’s arm lifting off the table, maybe moving in circles. Or as when a horse folds his neck into a pretzel. Sometimes even to the extent of a person appearing to seizure or running in place while on the table. There are also some therapists that say their patients have begun mumbling or screaming while they are receiving an MFR session. Some report that their patient’s black out during this “unwinding” and then report they had no clue that they happened. Sounds like a nice peaceful bodywork session, right? I do not know about you, but as I was hearing and seeing these things take place my stomach was turning over.

As I began to dig into scripture, and the knowledge of other Christians, it became more and more apparent to me that this was not something that aligns with what the Bible tells us is good. Now, I would like to state that this is my opinion on what I believe Scripture is telling us, I am not claiming that it is 100% fact; however, if you are a believer in “unwinding” already, all I ask is that you keep an open mind. The videos of so-called revival that we have all seen of people being “drunk with the Spirit,” came to my mind instantly. People falling on the floor, dancing as if their arms are not attached to their brain, laughing uncontrollably, et cetera. These videos also made me feel sick to my stomach just like an unwinding episode. So I began asking how and why they are similar? Well, this is where it gets a little uncomfortable…

In second Timothy 1:7 the apostle Paul illuminates to us that, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Of course, one cannot forget the power and love, but let’s just home in on that last gift, self-control. Do those in the midst of an “unwinding” have self-control?  No, they do not, and neither do those who are experiencing a so-called “revival.” Therefore, it is not Biblical for a reborn Christian to lose control during an “unwinding” because God has the grace to offer us self-control. Does this mean that it is natural and okay for a non-Christian to experience unwinding in this way? Honestly, I am not sure. I lean toward no, but that is something the reader will have to come to on their own.

What I continue to wrestle with is if “unwinding” is possible because God designed the body in such a way that they happen because they are beneficial or if it is something else. The unrest in my spirit when I experience an “unwinding,”makes me believe that it is likely something else other than a mental time regression. By no means am I claiming this as fact, however with the information given in the Bible it is the most logical conclusion. I have had a suspicion that the truly wild unwinding, not the slight gentle movements that occur while the patient is 100% relaxed, but those that the MFR receiver cannot stop or does not know is happening, may be of demonic origin. I know, I know, but hear me out. In Mark chapter 9 we are told of a young boy that Jesus casts a demon out of. We are told in verse 17 that “whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground,” later on in the chapter we learn that “when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.” This is more dramatic than most unwindings are, but there are some similarities. There are several similar situations throughout the Bible, and I cannot shake the feeling that we are meant to pay attention to this. If this is in fact the case, it is not a reason to be afraid, in Luke 10:18-19 Jesus gives His children peace of mind by telling them, “ behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Whether you agree with me or not, I encourage you to research it more on your own and come to your own conclusion.

In summary, I think the world of holistic healing is fascinating, valuable, and largely untapped. Yes, I think that you can be a Christian and perform MFR, but only if you are strong in your beliefs- your core values of what it means to be a Christian; so that you are not pulled into false beliefs. Though MFR is not always accepted in both scientific and religious communities, I have hope that one day it will be a viable option for both. When a Christian makes the decision to walk differently than the rest of the world they are deciding to live for Christ and not themselves. By acknowledging that the only reason they are capable of bringing about the relief of release simply with their hands, is because they were created by a loving God granting them the ability to bring about the end of pain, to bring joy- there is nothing to do except to thank Him for His wonderful design, and point all the success and glory back to Him. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1)

MFR from a Christian Perspective: About
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