Another local bellydancer, Latifa, linked to a fascinating article from Men's Health Magazine, Everything You Know About Your Muscles is Wrong. It's all about fascia! Fascia is the network of connective tissue that runs throughout the body. The myofascial net, in particular, embraces all of the muscle tissue. It was my understanding in my yoga training that fascia contains neurotransmitters that send signals back and forth to the brain (proprioception) and inform the brain of sensation and pain. This article is focused on new research that shows that fascia also displays a spring-like quality that can help your muscles act stronger, and accessing the fascia can benefit overall fitness training.
We all have specific habits and imbalances that affect our posture and how we move. Those habits become engrained in the fascia. Fascia is difficult to change, so this article is suggesting starting your workout by opening up secondary areas of the connective tissue. Even that is effective in bringing the body into balance. Oh hey look at that! Bring your body into balance and you won't hurt yourself! Isn't that yoga?!
The article led me to Thomas Myer's website, where I found an excerpt of a lecture about yoga and fascia. Muscles relax after the neurological signal from your brain that basically says, "OK we're just in triangle pose, no one is going to get hurt!" Depending on training, this can be as short as 30 seconds for your hamstrings (for example) to start to let go and lengthen. After, one to three minutes, you can access the myofascial stretch. Fascia stretches plasticly,and does not snap back like muscle does. So keep holding those poses and you'll break those habits and imbalances that are causing you pain!