Have you ever noticed that sometimes yoga just cannot help you with those hard, knotted-up places in the body as well as massage can? But, going out and getting a massage every time you experience adhesion of the muscles and fascia isn’t really feasible for a lot of people. Self-massage is a great way to take your health into your own hands. A massage ball is an easy-to-use, inexpensive, and effective tool for opening up the body or preparing it for more demanding postures and longer meditations.
Which massage ball should I use?
Acquiring some tools is a great first step to getting a more sustainable release in your tissues. There are a lot of massage tools on the market, so consider which areas of your body are commonly the tightest and start by addressing those areas. Though there are special tools for specific parts of the body, many of the tools out there, like foam rollers, are versatile and can work many on areas of the body.
Massage balls are one of the handiest and easiest-to-find tools. There are many sizes with a variety of firmnesses. The best part is that you can often begin with what you already have at home: you can use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. Or, if you are able to spend a few dollars more, you can get equipment specifically designed to be used on the body. Two brands on the market that have proven themselves with the test of time are Triggerpoint balls and Yoga TuneUp balls. If you want the most versatile size, go for a smaller ball to start with.
Where should I start?
One of the most effective spots to massage yourself for a full-body reset is the soles of the feet. They’re the foundation of the body and thus affect every other part.
To begin, place a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or massage ball under one foot. Before moving it around just rest your body weight onto it at a place that feels good. Take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths as your release your body weight down into it. Then, start to roll the ball from the ball of the foot to the heel, slowly working it from the instep of the foot to the outside line of the foot, noticing any areas of tenderness along the way and pausing at them. Spend a couple minutes with that, or as long as you need, and then try going right to left, from the heel to the ball of the foot, in the same way. Not only do these massage techniques stimulate circulation and release tension, but they also help to mobilize the foot, which is very important for walking, running, hiking, and overall balance. To work on your mobility, stand with the ball under the toes and spread the toes over the ball, as if you were going to pick it up (the toes act like fingers, gripping the ball.) Actually picking up the ball is nearly impossible, but that’s not the point. You are opening up the space between the metatarsals (foot bones) and phalanges (toe bones), which tend to move closer together with age, bunions and wearing constrictive shoes.
One more spot where almost everyone holds their stress and tension is the neck. For this exercise, you will need to either have a tote to put two tennis-sized balls in, a sock, or some bandage tape to tape the balls together. They should be close together, with little to no space between them. Bring yourself to a wall. If you’ve got long hair, tie it up. Place the balls behind the neck, on either side of the spine. Lean into the balls the whole time, so the balls don’t fall to the floor. Again, just start with five or more deep, relaxing, belly breaths. Then, slowly roll the balls from the base of the neck to the base of the skull ten times or more; the slower, the better. If your neck is very sensitive and moving slowly is too intense of a sensation, then start a little faster and with less pressure and build up over time to going slower and deeper to penetrate the deeper layers of muscles and fascia.