Benefits of foam rolling for yoga

Foam roller exercises for yogis - IT Band stretch
IT band stretch
Thoracic Spine foam roller exercise for yoga
Thoracic Spine stretch
Benefits of foam rolling for yoga - foam roller calf exercise
Calf stretch
General by Blair Atkins

Many collegiate and professional athletes use foam rollers to recover from intense training sessions, and yogis can benefit from foam rolling just as much. Twisting your body in a way you haven't before and trying new poses can cause your muscles to tense up; using the foam roller keeps your muscles supple and allows for better recovery from especially challenging practices.

Foam rolling can be a bit painful if you are especially tight. But if you commit to doing a little each day, you will soon notice a difference in how you move and feel. Using the foam roller can also help prevent injuries so you can continue to challenge yourself in your yoga practice.

Here are 3 foam roller stretches that are beneficial to yogis. Perform each for 30-60 seconds based on what your body needs.

IT Band

The foam roller is ideal for stretching your iliotibial (IT) band, the band of muscles that runs down the outer part of your thigh. Doing this stretch a few times a week will keep your IT band happy, especially if your practice includes a lot of chair pose.

Lay on your side and raise your hips off of the mat. Slide the foam roller beneath your hips and rest them on the roller. Place your top foot on the floor for support. Roll up and down the outer thigh, spending extra time on areas that feel particularly tender. Be sure to stop before you hit the knee.

Thoracic Spine

This stretch will better prepare you for spine strengthening postures in class and relieve upper back pain.

Start by lying on your back. Slide foam roller under your back at the height of your shoulder blades. Interlace your fingers behind your head like you do when performing a crunch. Raise your hips off of the ground and slowly roll up and down your upper back.

Calf

Regularly rolling out your calves will ease the discomfort you may feel during the first few downward facing dogs of practice.

Sit on the ground with your legs stretched long in front of you as they are in a seated forward fold. Slide the foam roller under your calves and prop yourself up onto your hands. Cross your left leg over your right and roll from the bottom of your knee to your Achilles tendon. Switch and roll the other calf by crossing right leg over left.


A foam roller is well worth the $20 pricetag as it helps your body repair for the next time you step on the mat. Think of foam rolling as a affordable (albeit not as relaxing) deep tissue massage!

About the Author

Blair Atkins

Blair Atkins is a freelance fitness writer based in San Diego, CA. A former Division I volleyball player, she is now exploring other ways to sweat off of the court. While she also enjoys SPX Pilates, running, and hiking, she has delved deep into her yoga practice in the past two years since completing her career as a college athlete and recently became an instructor through CorePower Yoga. Blair recently created the blog www.beachgrown.com where she writes daily about healthy living in Southern California. 

Comments

Your post seems great as it

Your post seems great as it is informative and worthy to the readers. Foam rollers is the best way to get recovery from especially challenging practices. I will expect such more stuff from you and want to suggest you that please also highlight the various sizes of the rollers for different exercises.

concerns about self massage

I wrote an article for elephant journal about self-massage and how it's not always 100% beneficial. Many people simple don't have enough training to do it well or properly. Here's a section from the article about how we need more awareness of depth and angle when we are enacting pressure on our tissues.

Depth. How deep should we go with pressure? There’s a common myth that “deeper is better and more effective.” The depth of pressure needs to be appropriate, not maximized. The depth of the work should depend on the layer of tissue you want to affect. Knowing which layer needs attention and then how to accurately find it takes skill and sensitivity.

In other words, it’s not as simple as “press as hard as you can where it feels tight or sore and then you’ll solve the problem.” In addition, even if you can locate and perceive the desired layer, actually being able to achieve that exact depth in the context of working with a roller or a ball is another skill entirely.

Angle. The angle of the pressure is a largely ignored aspect in rolling techniques: giving perpendicular pressure into tissue (the usual default amateur way) will often compress layers firmly into each other, causing undesirable density. Often when a bodyworker exerts pressure it is from an oblique angle, thereby “fluffing” tissue, separating, and freeing layers from each other so that they can breathe and move independently.

I often see people who have “over-rolled” their outer thighs on foam rollers in an honest effort to release and lengthen their IT bands, but they end up with flattened, dense, immovable tissue. With practice and training, one can learn how to roll or use a ball at an oblique angle.

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