As a teacher I stand…a lot. I also drive from studio A to B to client’s homes back to Studio B and finish up at Studio A all in one day. So, I also sit…a lot. I often demonstrate when I teach and some classes I participate through the whole session. Needless to say, even though I find myself to be in excellent shape, by the end of the day, my muscles can be tight. One of the smartest things I ever did was buy a foam roller. It’s a relatively inexpensive investment, but I assure you, if there is one prop you were to ever buy, the foam roller is it.
It’s a pretty ingenious thing, really. It’s high-density foam in tube form. They come in various densities (some more firm than others), in ½ roll format (one side is flat) and with nubs protruding from it. It was originally developed for use in a physical therapy setting for massage, releasing muscular tension or balance exercises to name a few. Today you will find foam rollers in most Pilates studios and there are even full workouts that can be done solely using the roller (and they are not easy!). I will often utilize the foam roller with my clients for balance work and as an excellent prop to really isolate the abdominals in certain exercises.
But what I have found is that the roller is an amazing tool to relieve muscular tension and for relaxation. When used correctly, the effects (depending in the density of the roller), mimic deep tissue massage. You can lay lengthwise on the roller with one end at the tailbone and the other end at the crown of the head and just relax to release tension in the muscles of the back and neck. Keeping the feet flat and knees bent (about 6 inches apart and 6 inches away from your glutes), and the abdominals engaged is very important as always. You can lay on your side with the roller perpendicular to your leg and starting from above the knee (never on the knee) and roll up and down the leg (be careful not to go over the bone that protrudes out just below the hip. You can also ‘roll out’ the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Adductors, Back, Glutes, Arms…etc. Using the foam roller is extremely beneficial for everyone, even if you don’t necessarily feel muscle tightness. Rolling the muscles can be very painful so don’t say I didn’t warn you, but you do get used to it and the relief you feel is worth it. As with anything exercise or bodywork related, you should check with your doctor prior to beginning foam roller work. This is especially important if you have any existing injuries, joint issues or disc problems as it may not be right for your body. If you get the green light though, give it a try and roll your way to a more relaxed you!