Myofascial Release, John F. Barnes Approach
All you need to know before receiving JFB MFR
What is fascia? The fascia is generally regarded as connective tissue, but it it infinitely more significant than that. It is the single most significant structure of the body with regard to health, vitality, and wellbeing on every level. The fascia is a very complex network of fibers that is located throughout the body. The fascial system is fluid, reactive, and is in constant motion. It encompasses and controls every other system in the body, including the nerves, organs, glands, muscles, and bones. It is conscious and intelligent beyond measure. However, the fascia system is very primitive: it does not make decisions or use logic, but rather reacts to stimulus. The significance of the fascia has been recognized and acknowledged for more than 50 years, yet it is still largely ignored by Western medicine, including Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, and conventional Massage Therapy.
What JFB MFR is: JFB MFR is an unconventional, holistic approach to complete health and vitality. It is not taught at any conventional health education institutions, yet it is world renowned. John F. Barnes has been teaching and practicing this approach with astounding results for more than 40 years. Students come to the United States from all over the world to attend his educational seminars.
Why everyone on the planet needs MyoFascial Release: Each and every day, our bodies are subjected to trauma – from the most minor bumps to the very dramatic and violent injuries. Trauma is experienced on every level of our beings: physical, mental/emotional, energetic/spiritual, and psychological. Each time your body experiences any type of trauma, no matter now minor, part of the fascial system will restrict around the site of the injury in order to protect you from further injury. Later, after your cuts and bruises have healed, if you do nothing to help release the fascia, then that restriction (aka “adhesion”) will remain in your body forever. (Remember that the fascia only reacts to stimuli, and doesn’t make decisions on our behalf.) With time and age, restrictions in the fascial tissue accumulate throughout the body and contribute to illness and dis-ease, such as pain, imbalance, posture problems, stiffness, decreased blood and lymph circulation, incontinence, inflammatory conditions, blurry vision, mental fog… nearly every condition you can imagine that occurs in the body probably started as a fascial restriction! Even emotional energy can become trapped within the fascia. (Not to worry, though, because it turns out that releasing fascial restrictions is not difficult, and is often even more enjoyable than massage therapy! Stay with me and keep reading…)
- Back pain
- Bladder problems (urgency, frequency, incontinence, overactive bladder, leakage)
- Birth injuries
- Bulging disc
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Cervical and lumbar injuries
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Degenerative disc disease
What is Myofascial Release?
- Emotional trauma
- Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)
- Herniated disc
- Headaches and migraines
- Interstitial cystitis
- Menstrual problems
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Neck pain
- Pelvic pain (including painful sex)
What is happening during Myofascial Release?
- Planter fasciitis
- Pudendal nerve entrapment
- Scars (hypertrophic, hypersensitive, painful, burn scars, mastectomy scars)
- Shin splints
- Tennis elbow
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- TMJ syndrome
- Trigeminal neuralgia
Views of the living fascia
How it works: Imagine the fascial system as a 3-dimensional spider web, with fibers that permeate each and every tissue and cell in the body. The fascial system provides support and structure for each body tissue, as well as communication between them. The fascial system is where the consciousness resides in the body. When you hear reference to the “body’s wisdom”, it is the fascia that is being referenced. During trauma, the fascia stiffens to guard against further injury. This stiffening is what results in a fascial restriction, also referred to as an adhesion. It can be experienced as tightness or tension in soft tissues of the body, stiffened joints, or as pain. Prolonged restriction can later result in chronic disease and conditions, such as scarring, arthritis, fibromyalgia, hardening of the arteries, M.S. and other autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, diabetes… probably every health condition you can imagine began first as a restriction of the fascia.
Energy and consciousness are what hold fascial restrictions in place until it is clear that they are no longer serving any purpose. This means that if an opposite-type of stimulus never occurs that might trigger a release of the fascia, then the restriction remains permanently stuck in the body. (Understand that the body’s intelligence is very primitive and doesn’t make decisions independent of a stimulus. Therefore, if a restriction occurred for a reason, then it needs a separate reason to release or unwind.) Over time, each and every injury or trauma that occurs to the body, regardless of how minor, contributes to the stiffening of the fascial system as a whole. The effects are cumulative and compound with age. If they are never released, they will result in a gradual decline in health. Since it requires a great deal of energy to maintain fascial restrictions, you’ll experience more and more unnecessary fatigue as fascial adhesions accumulate in the body.
Fascial release is often referred to as “unwinding.” When the fascia unwinds, it is often necessary for the body to go through the exact movements in reverse of the movements that were experienced during the trauma that created the restriction. This is why bodily movements often occur during a healing process. Healing most often occurs during sleep, when the conscious mind steps aside enough to allow healing to take place. (Remember that it is the consciousness, combined with energy, that holds myofascial restrictions in place?) We have all experienced the phenomenon I like to call “sleepy-jerks,” which occurs when you are lying in bed on the verge of sleep; suddenly, you experience a sudden jerking movement of an arm or leg which jolts you back to an awakened state. This jerking movement is a result of a spontaneous unwinding. Dreams, rapid eye movements (REM), and twitching are also signs that unwinding is occurring on some level of your being. The reason this occurs during sleep is because that is the only time that most of us ever experience an altered state of consciousness sufficient enough to get the mind out of the way of our healing. (Health is our natural state of being – it’s not something you have to “do”, it’s simply something you have to “allow”)
In order to manually release the deep layers of the fascia, it is necessary to engage the structures deep inside the body, beyond the superficial barriers, and then wait. Besides depth, it requires stillness (“still point”), and quite a fair bit of time, 5 minutes or longer, for the fascia to begin to respond. While holding pressure deep into the bodily structures, an initial release will be experienced within 90-seconds to 2-minutes. (A release feels like a softening or elongation of the tissue that is being engaged.) However, this first release is not a fascial release – you have simply broken through the collagenous barrier of the skin, and have just begun to touch the deeper structures. It is the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th releases that create the permanent changes to the structure of the body, and this takes a minimum of 5 minutes to even begin. The more time that is spent engaging these successive barriers, the more fascial release will be experienced. This is why conventional therapies like physical therapy, massage therapy, and even old-school myofascial release techniques often only provide temporary results, at best. 5 minutes is more time than most massage therapists spend massaging an entire arm, let alone an area the size of your palm or smaller – It’s no wonder that your relief only lasts a few hours to a few days!
Once the unwinding begins, it takes place throughout the entire body – not just in the place where it started. Even if you can’t see it or feel it, it is happening, and the results are undeniable! The healing process can continue for several days or even weeks. You might notice a profound difference in the depth of your sleep; you might feel taller; you might feel very sore for a few days and your pain might even feel worse before it starts feeling better. You might notice nothing obvious at all. Your healing process will be uniquely yours, and your experience will be different than anyone else’s.
To the right is a great video that demonstrates what a self-unwinding treatment can look like: >>
I cried during your treatment today.
As I watched you shake violently
and I felt your pelvis heat up,
I held on as your body rippled.
My eyes got moist and my vision blurred
A familiar place within me stirred.
I remembered when it first hit me,
that deep place of sure release.
Not wondering or trying,
wanting or even prying,
but in a place of peace.
Knowing the feeling of burdens gone
and the relief from things held so long.
Feeling tough and feeling strong,
but unable to continue on,
I feel your courage and your fear
And share compassion with my tear!
~ author unknown
What to expect: Since JFB MFR is holistic in nature, it can trigger healing (release of dis-ease) on any or all levels of your being. A physical release may be experienced as an intense stretching or burning sensation, a sudden softening of tense or hardened soft tissue or restricted joints, or as motor movements that can range from slight twitching to wild convulsions. A mental/emotional release may be experienced as intense feeling of any type (joy, sadness, anger, etc) or as vivid memories or conscious dreams. Tears and/or sounds (such as sobbing or moaning) may also occur spontaneously as trapped emotional energy exits the body. An energetic/spiritual release may be experienced as a feeling of euphoria or nirvana, a general sense of wellbeing, a sensation of being re-attached or rejoined with the self, numbness, tingling, or tickling sensations on the surface of the skin, or as temperature changes. All of this is perfectly natural, and should be accepted as part of the healing process.
It is also possible that you will not experience any obvious signs of release, and that is okay. Healing and rebalancing affects everyone differently. You will still receive healing benefit, regardless of how you experience it.
You may fall asleep during your treatment, but you will never “black out” or lose control. You retain the ability to stop the process at any time (although why would you want to?)
No oil, cream or lotion is used during JFB MFR work, as the therapist will need to easily grip and move the skin and underlying fascia throughout the treatment. If you are receiving MFR in conjunction with a conventional massage, where a lubricant is used on the skin, then the massage will be performed last.
After your treatment, you may feel amazing – pain free, energetic, and more alive than you have ever felt. OR you may feel lethargic, nauseated, stiff & sore, and perhaps even worse than you have felt in a long time. Do not be alarmed! Your body is rebalancing and making a lot of adjustments, and this affects everyone differently. Regardless of how you are affected, it is important to experience it fully – either enjoy your increased energy by engaging in an enjoyable physical activity, or take a day off work to stay in bed and rest, if that is what your body needs. Always honor your body’s needs at all times. DOdrink a much-more-than-usual amount of water and enjoy plenty of rest, fresh air and nutrition. DO NOT be tempted to apply heat or ice, take any pain-relieving substances, apply any topical analgesic creams, take a hot Epsom salt bath, or apply any other conventional method used to ease discomfort. Understand that deep healing requires you to re-live old, repressed, unhealed past injuries, in order to relieve the “stuckness” and stagnation that is causing dis-ease in your body. Remember: if the body can’t feel, it can’t heal. Embrace it, feel it, honor it, and then release it. If you do anything to artificially repress the sensations that arise in your body, you will arrest the healing process (aka “healing crisis”), and you will have to start the healing process all over again at your next MFR treatment (which is not the end of the world, but why not facilitate the process as best you can?)
What to do:
- Read “Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom” by John F. Barnes. This fascinating book will touch you deeply, guiding you into a unique way of enhancing your personal power, intuition, and awareness that will help you reconnect with your essence. It will also give you tremendous insight into the nature of the healing process, enabling you to be a more effective partner in your own journey toward complete health and wellbeing.
Before your appointment:
- Women should plan to wear a 2-piece bathing suit or a bra and panties – sports bras are ideal. Men may wear briefs, boxers, swimming trunks, or loose shorts with a stretchy waistband. All clothing should be lose and comfortable, and should allow for movement, support, and modesty without restriction – no underwires! The therapist will need easy access to all structures of the body, including the sternum, upper back, sacrum (tail bone), and the muscles and fascia of the pelvis. However, a sheet used for draping is impractical, as it may impede free movement of the body. Therefore, you will lie on top of the treatment table, scantily clad, during your treatment.
- Ensure that your skin is clean, dry, and completely free of oils, lotions, and cosmetics. This includes your face, as many of the techniques are performed on the head and face.
- Drink enough water prior to your appointment to ensure that you are well hydrated prior to treatment.
During your treatment:
- First, trust that JFB MFR can never harm you. I repeat – no harm can come to you during this completely natural and holistic treatment! It is imperative that you trust the process completely and allow whatever happens to happen without holding anything back. (This may take some getting used to, as it may cause you to feel a bit uneasy at first.) As the fascia begins to unwind, spontaneous body movements may take place. Let it happen! If you resist or attempt to remain in control of your body movements, the unwinding process will stop – after all, you are ultimately in complete control of your health and disease, whether you are receiving treatment or not. Unwinding of the fascia can only occur if and when your body and mind are ready for it to happen, and not a moment sooner. MyoFascial unwinding is the most dramatic of the healing process. However, don’t worry if you don’t experience your unique healing journey in a dramatic way. I assure you that healing is still taking place!
- Remain calm and relaxed at all times. The “still point” is the place where healing takes place and is a deeply relaxed state of being where the body is asleep and the mind is either asleep or awake yet very still and quiet. This state of being is not possible if your mind is racing or if you are engaging in any conscious or intentional motor movement, including conversation. Your therapist will help guide you to this place during your treatment. (It’s not as difficult as you might think.)
- Let your therapist know if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort beyond the “hurts so good” level that is comfortable for you.
After your treatment:
- Regardless of how you feel after your treatment, DO NOT be tempted to apply heat or ice, take any pain-relieving substances, apply any topical analgesic creams, take a hot Epsom salt bath, or utilize any other conventional method used to ease discomfort. (see “What to expect” for more information)
- Drink more water. Regardless of how hydrated you believe you are, drink more water!
- In the beginning, return for additional treatments as often as you can work them into your schedule and your budget. Deep healing work has a cumulative, compounding effect. You’ll know when it’s time to start spacing your treatments out, or when it’s time to alternate your treatments with conventional therapies like massage – your body will be communicating with you and will tell you what you need, and you will be learning to listen. At the absolute minimum, I would recommend at least 1½-2 hours of treatment per month as a single, long appointment or as two separate shorter appointments. You can receive as many as three treatments per week in the beginning, if you choose.
Muscular Pain: About two prior to my MFR training, a male client came to see me for massage. I do not recall what his specific complaints were, nor do I remember which techniques I was using on him. I don’t even remember his name. What I do recall very clearly was what happened in the middle of his treatment: he was relaxing face-down on the table while I was working somewhere near his hips, when his entire body suddenly started to seize. His head, torso, arms and legs slowly rose off of the table and his entire body began to quiver. Only his pelvis and lower abdomen remained in contact with the table and he maintained this position for probably 20-30 seconds (which seemed like an eternity at the time!) before he relaxed back onto the table. Since I had never witnessed anything like this before, I was understandably very alarmed! I immediately stopped what I was doing and simply stood by him to keep him safe, in case he might start convulsing more violently and fall off the table. When it was over, I asked him if he was okay, and he said that he was fine. At the end of his treatment, I asked him if he knew what happened. He told me that he never felt any pain, and that he never blacked out. He said he was aware that something was happening that he didn’t seem to have control over, but he never felt frightened or uncomfortable, so he just let it happen – he thought that I was doing it TO him! He spoke of the experience in a very matter-of-fact manner and seemed completely at peace with it. For the next couple of years, I wondered what in the world happened. Now, I think I finally understand it.
What this man had experienced was a spontaneous Fascial Unwinding. It was a natural healing process in the deepest, core levels of his being. I wish I could remember his name so that I could follow up with him to find out what he continued to experience over the next few days, weeks, and months. I’m betting that he slept remarkably well and felt 10 feet tall for quite some time!
Trapped/Stuck Emotional Energy: Throughout the entire MFR seminar that I attended, I witnessed one student after the other releasing trapped energy in the form of violent physical tremors and loud, seemingly uncontrollable sobbing. On more than one occasion, I found myself with tears streaming down my face and my lips quivering, without even knowing why! Sometimes I was receiving a treatment, and sometimes I was giving one – it didn’t seem to matter. At the end of each outburst, the person who experienced it appeared calm, relaxed, and completely comfortable with what was happening – as though it was a casual, daily occurrence.
I don’t even know how to describe what I witnessed and experienced that weekend, and I’ve been reluctant to even try. I’m afraid that everyone reading this will think that I attended some kind of a religious or cult revival meeting, rather than an educational seminar. At times, I even found myself feeling doubtful, judgmental, and very skeptical – I even questioned my own sanity! Some of you reading this may even think that I’m a sucker for being brainwashed into pre-purchasing another 2 seminars. Regardless of what you may be thinking, the entire experience was more real to me than the computer in front of me, in this moment. Even now, several days after returning home, I feel taller, more open, relaxed, and a little sore, but otherwise completely free of pain. I think that the best part is the sleep – I am sleeping like I haven’t slept in a very long time!
PTSD & Previous Life-Threatening Injuries: On the second day of the seminar, we took a break and most of the attendees left the room to use the bathroom. I wanted to ask John Barnes a question, and so I walked back into the room where I found him standing behind a man who was sitting on a treatment table near the stage at the front of the room. John had his hand on the man’s back, and was speaking softly into the man’s ear. The man was slumped over and leaning forward, appearing rather incoherent. Several other students were starting to huddle around the table. It occurred to me that something very profound was going on, so I stood next to John and watched to see what was about to happen.
After a brief moment, John looked up at the students who were standing around the table and announced that anyone who wanted to participate in a “Group Unwinding” was invited to come forward. He instructed us all to lay our hands on each other, in order to share our energy with the instructors and with the man on the table. We all complied and simply observed. The man laid down on the table while John laid his hands on the man’s body in the same manner that he had been teaching us. Within 5 minutes, the man’s body began to convulse and contort. It came in waves, where he would seem to relax for a few seconds before the next wave of convulsions began. Wave after wave came and went. After a few minutes, a convulsion occurred that was so violent that it lifted his body off the treatment table and up over our heads! Only a few hands were in direct contact with the man’s body, as the rest of us were simply touching each other’s shoulders as we watched in amazement. It simply defied gravity! He was suspended in the air above our heads for the next 2 or 3 waves of convulsions before he was gently lowered to the floor. At that time, his body began to twist so that he ended up lying face-down on the floor. This is when he began to weep, and tears suddenly began to flow from my own eyes for no apparent reason other than complete overwhelm and compassion for this man. This is when I noticed that one of his legs was in a brace that extended from his hip to the middle of his calf. I watched as John pushed his way back through the crowd of students (I hadn’t even been aware that he had backed away.) He kneeled down near the man’s head and spoke gently. He instructed the man to tell himself, silently in his head, “I survived. I am safe, now.”
When John started making his way back to the stage at the front of the room, I had to ask him a question: “Was that a soul retrieval?” His answer was simply, “That was so much more than a soul retrieval!” A few moments later, I watched some people help the man into a wheelchair that I hadn’t even noticed before. They wheeled him out of the room and I never saw him again. John never explained what had occurred, other than to simply state, “sometimes trauma gets stuck in the body.”
Broken Bones: During the seminar, John shared a story with us about a friend of his who was a doctor. His doctor/friend called him to request that he come to the hospital to show him how to treat his wife, who had been seriously injured, with MFR. John obliged and, after spending some time with them demonstrating the techniques, the doctor/friend was called to the emergency room to assist with a woman who had been in a car accident. When he arrived in the E.R., he found the woman lying on an x-ray table with a shattered pelvis. She was in agonizing pain and she pleaded with the doctor to help her. Just as he was about to prescribe the usual dose of pain medication, he decided to try something else, first. He sat next to the woman and placed his hands on either side of her pelvis, just as John had demonstrated on his wife. Then he waited. Within a few minutes, he felt some movement in her pelvic area, accompanied by some loud clicking and popping sounds. She then told the doctor that her pain was gone, and he ordered another x-ray. After comparing the two x-rays, he found that all the shattered pieces of her pelvis had found their way back into their correct position.
Unwinding: After the seminar, I came home and decided to practice some of the techniques on my son, who is also a Massage Therapist. While I worked with my left hand cradling his head, and my right hand applying downward pressure across his forehead, his neck began to unwind. It was very subtle, at first – I simply became aware that there was more pressure on the heel of my right hand than there was at the fingertips. To see what would happen, I allowed my arm and hand to relax and let his head turn. It turned quite rapidly and seemed very deliberate… almost forceful. His head didn’t stop turning until his nose was turned as far to the right as his neck would allow. Not really knowing what else to do, I continued his treatment with his head turned, since that’s where his body seemed to want it. He was obviously very deeply relaxed, as I could tell by his breathing, and his arms and legs began to twitch. Afterward, I asked him if he had been awake and aware of his bodily movements. He said that he was aware of the “sleepy-jerks” occurring with his extremities, but he insisted that he felt ME moving his head with my hands. I don’t think he believes me, even now, when I explain that I didn’t – in fact, my hand was LEADING his movement, so I couldn’t have possibly been pushing him!
Intestinal Problems: I got a text message from a friend in the middle of the night. She was having severe lower abdominal pain, resembling that of a bowel obstruction, and she refused to go to the E.R. When I arrived at her house, she was on all fours on the floor, unable to move, and she was dry-heaving from the pain. I gently released the fascia from around her sacrum (tailbone) and lower intestines. During the treatment, she told me that she went back to a time when she went cliff-diving with some friends as a teenager: she jumped feet-first from several feet in the air into the water below; however, her bodyweight shifted backward during her fall and she landed squarely on her tailbone on the water surface at probably 20-30 mph. She said that she felt her bowels fill with water as she landed and it took her breath away. She was unable to walk and could barely breathe for several moments afterward, and has suffered severe bowel restrictions every since then. During the treatment, her legs and pelvis began unwinding and I felt a dramatic release in her descending colon. Within an hour after I arrived, she was standing and walking around. The next morning, I checked in with her. She said that she continued to unwind in bed during the night. She said that she still felt some discomfort, but was feeling much better, and well enough to go to work. One month later, her bowel restriction problem seems to have been completely resolved.
Past Injury: This story is about my own personal experience as an MFR patient. This was the first MFR experience that I’ve had that I could actually relate to a past experience, so it was very exciting for me! I was receiving cranial work when my therapist told me that she felt a strong throbbing in my head just before my neck started to forcefully unwind. A few moments later, I noticed a strong fluttering sensation in my diaphragm area, just at the base of my ribcage.It happened several times over the next 2-3 minutes. After the treatment, I felt a deep bruising sensation under my ribs that seemed disproportionately uncomfortable for the degree of spasm that had taken place there. I brushed it off, but noticed that it was still quite tender to the touch even two days later. As I was pressing my fingers into the area, evaluating the depth of the brusing sensation, I had an instant flashback. I was about 10-12 years old when I got a little to close to the back end of a cranky old horse. His hoof had caught me under my rib cage and launched me into the air and backwards about 10 feet, where I landed on my head. Afterward, I remember a bruise in the shape of a horseshoe that lasted about a week and felt exactly like what I was feeling after my treatment. There was no visible bruising, but the tenderness occurred in a crescent-shape exactly where the previous injury had been.
Past Injury: I joined a study group in Colorado after my first MFR class so that I could have regular contact with other therapists, and also so I could practice my skills with those who are more experienced. We meet about once per month and give treatments to each other. It is always a pleasure to treat people who are experienced with MFR because they tend to be more open to the experience, and they put up less resistance to the unwinding process. My study group partner explained that he had been in a snowboarding accident several years ago and broke his clavicle into foud pieces, and still had trouble with pain in his shoulder. I started with some basic MFR across his upper chest, near the affected shoulder, and then used a rebounding technique (which consists of gentle rocking of the body). The right side of his pelvis started coming up off the table as his body began twisting and unwinding, so I placed my hand under his hip and gave him a gentle upward nudge to encourage whatever process was beginning to continue. Suddenly, his entire body twisted and rolled toward the edge of the table and he let out a groan. Then his body twisted violently in the opposite direction – I had to run around the table to catch him because I thought he was going to fall off! Instead of rolling off the side of the table, however, his body slid forward, toward the head of the table, until he was hanging upside-down with only his legs and lower torso on the table. I’m sure that my eyes were as big as saucers because this was my first experience with such a dramatic unwinding process on my own treatment table. When he stopped moving, I remarked, “Well, THAT was fun!” and we both started laughing. He told me that the movements he went through on the treatment table were the exact movements that his body went through during his snowboarding accident, and he could feel a remarkable difference in the way his shoulder felt. AMAZING!!!
Article written by: Chahna, www.transformationswellness.net. © 2016. All rights reserved.