We all have heard about the infamous foam roller, and by now you have hopefully given it a try. If not, there are so many benefits to be had with even just a 10 min. daily session.
Benefits of Foam Rolling
Form of myofascial release
Helps to loosen muscles
Helps to increase blood flow to muscles
Minimizes injuries by keeping muscles supple
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Why Yogis Should Foam Roll
All Those Lunges! In yoga we focus on flowing through one side of the body usually right then left sides before balancing back in center. This type of exercise is considered Unilateral since it works just one side at a time with a focus on working individual limbs. Types of unilateral poses include: Warrior 1, Crescent Lunge, and Side Plank. And though when we perform these types of movements, we are building strength in the body, we can also create an imbalance from side to side as we compensate for these differences. Often as practitioners we notice then when we favor one side of the body challenging it more, or referring to it as our favorite side or good side.
With foam rolling we begin to rebalance the body and loosen areas of tension. This helps to create a symbiotic relationship between our right and left sides so that neither one is taking all of the wear and tear and the strain is essentially equalized.
In the majority of our yoga classes and throughout most styles we are focused on working our muscles and flowing through poses or the Vinyasa component at a quick pace. We thus do not give the muscles adequate time to relax, as we are constantly putting demands on them through the movement and sequences. Most of the poses and different forms of exercises that we do have a Yang energy component, which serves to tighten and tone our muscles, but we never dig deep into the connective tissue. The result is stiffness and potential injury. We wrote more about staying healthy in yoga over here!
Similar to Yin yoga, foam rolling allows the yogi to move deeper by working on connective tissue. It releases the saran wrap layer of fascia that encases our muscles, which is typically a bit stubborn and requires a minimum of 5 minutes holding specific yoga poses to actually begin to release. This practice thus allows us to keep better fluidity and flexibility in the body.
For anyone who has already tried foam rolling, you understand that it requires patience and deep breaths as it can often be rather intense. Thus, for the yogi, this can actual be seen as another form of moving meditation and pranayama (breathwork), as it gives us the opportunity to surrender into the roller and let gravity and a bit of motion do it’s work. It also begs of us to be kind to our body, and if you’ve ever rolled over your IT band, you’ll understand the compassion that is necessary to not yell out in pain. All of this is to say that by foam rolling we are developing a more in tune awareness with our body that will aid us as we link mind + body + spirit in our yoga practice. It reminds us of where the edge is and asks that we slowly tease the edge without moving beyond it. And of course we are invited to smooth out the intense rough and rigid edges that often we exacerbate in our daily lives.
Lastly, foam rolling is a yin energy activity. Characteristics of Yin Energy are: calming, releasing, cooling, and restoring. And since much of our day requires us to be focused on Yang Energy or those activities that activate, heat, stress, and tense us, foam rolling is the perfect compliment to those daily demands. And since the majority of yoga practices are too seen as Yang Energy movements, we are able to find better balance when we apply the opposite. Foam rolling can allow us to create a feeling of lightness and restoration when we hit the mat again as we find new found flexibility in both mind and body and a fresh perspective.