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When I first began practicing yoga 15 years ago, I was a young, enthusiastic, ex-athlete looking for a practice that could replace the hours spent running up and down a basketball court. I found much satisfaction in a dynamic Vinyasa style practice, yet after a few years of happily flowing through countless planks and chaturangas, I started feeling a stiffness in various parts of my body including my upper back, chest, and forearms. I tried to “stretch it out” as well as visit many different types of bodyworkers, but any relief was short-lived.
A friend suggested I try some myofascial release using the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls. The relief (and release) was immediate. It didn't take me long to begin a regular rolling practice which helped improve my posture, increase my body awareness (or proprioception), allow for deeper breaths, improve my mobility, and increase my energy!
Why Yoga Tune Up®?
Unlike other balls, these ones are specifically designed to be used on the body for self-massage (instead of designed to be hit with a racquet or a stick). They are pliable to allow for a reliable physical release, as well as grippy to better grab your skin and fascia.
What are Fascia and Myofascia?
Simply put, fascia is the living seam system in your body that threads your tissues to one another. It's a sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue enveloping, separating, or binding together muscles, organs, and other soft structures of the body. Fascia is just one of the many types of connective tissue but it is the tissue that plays the biggest role in self-massage techniques.
Myofascia refers to the muscle structures along with their interpenetrating fascia, and as a result, the terms myofascia and muscle can be used interchangeably.
Self-massage is self-care; these little rubber balls provide an opportunity to take your healthcare into our own hands. Self-care as a whole begins to wear down our reliance on drugs and doctors. As little as 10 minutes spread throughout the day can make a huge difference – while also saving you money!
When can I start?
You can start now! Below are a few techniques you can try as soon as you get the chance.
Arch of foot
Stand next to a chair, stool, or wall and place a hand on it to help you balanced. Step your left arch on top of the ball so that it nestles into the center of your arch. Keep your heel on the ground and take 5-10 deep breaths, allowing your foot to sink deeper onto the ball. Then pivot your ankle from side to side while simultaneously trying to smush the ball to cross fiber your arch. Switch feet.
Place the ball or balls on the outside of your right thigh. Sit up to load the balls with your body weight and slowly glide your thigh forward like a plow so the balls shift towards your hamstrings. It's as if you were trying to pry off the IT band from the muscles it's stuck to. Reset the balls (instead of rolling back) and repeat this action another 5-10 times. Switch sides.
Place a ball on your right supraspinatus muscle, right where a heavy backpack strap would weigh down. Bridge your pelvis off the floor to load the ball with your body weight. Take several deep breaths, and then begin to slowly shift side to side. Don't let the ball move all the way to your neck, though; stay in the region of the shoulder blade. After a minute or two of this, switch sides.