Foam Roller Yoga & Massage
Over Christmas weekend I discovered my new best friend, a foam roller. Wow! It’s like giving yourself a massage! My favorite yoga instructor, Karen Dubs “Flexible Warrior”, created a wonderful yoga/stretch/recovery DVD with a foam roller in her Flexible Warrior series. We all work very hard in our workouts and burn out our muscles, but quite often we forget to give our muscles a break and massage out the sore spots. Massaging and stretching can also lead to a faster recovery, who doesn’t want that? After a few massages on the foam roller I was hooked, and now I do a few massages everyday!
Using a 36 inch (3 ft) dense foam roller, Karen takes you through 3 different yoga foam roller sessions. You can do all 3 sessions or just one, depending on what your body needs. The first session is a 20 min Sun Salutation Warm Up with an express full body stretch and massage to get those muscles warmed up, my favorite session. The 2nd session is Core Stability for 22 min to challenge ALL of your core muscles, way harder than core work on the mat. The 3rd and longest session for 55 min is a Myofascial Massage, Stretch & Recover for a complete body massage and stretch, a great off-day session.
Check out the demo video of the Flexible Warrior Vol 5 “Foam Roll Flexibility & Recovery” DVD.
My first question was, “What is Myofascial Release?” So I did a little research. . . .Fascia is the tissue located between the skin and the underlying structure of muscle and bone, and forms a seamless web that covers and connects the muscles, organs, and skeletal structures in our body. The fascia is responsible for maintaining our body’s structural integrity, supporting our posture, and acting as a shock absorber. Myofascial refers collectively to the tissue and the muscle. Together, the muscle and fascia form the myofascial system. The myofascial system is a totally unified structure that is present throughout your posture without any interruption. (source)
Just like a muscle, the fascia can become sore or restrictive if overused, stressed or injured. Myofascial release is a form of soft tissue therapy that can help increase blood flow and speed recovery, reduce muscle tension and your chances of injury, and improve overall performance. (www.flexiblewarrior.com)
Generally, there are 2 different types of myofascial release, direct and indirect. Direct myofascial release is when the tissue is massaged slowly with direct pressure on specific points, and indirect myofascial release is when the fascia is gently stretched with a small amount of pressure. In the Flexible Warrior Foam Roller session you get a mixture of both direct and indirect myofascial release.
Breakdown of Flexible Warrior Yoga Foam Roller DVD
All photos of the workout from the Flexible Warrior Facebook page.
Sun Salutation Warm Up: (20 Min)
Similar to a normal yoga session, you warm up slowly with deep inhales & exhales while reaching towards the sky and swan diving into a forward fold. After about 5 breath sequences, Karen gracefully takes you through a handful of myofascial release massages on the major muscles groups: quads, hamstrings, calves, IT band, hips, hip flexors, glutes, priformis (upper side of butt, my favorite!), upper & lower back, lats, and triceps. Here are a few photos:
After the massages, you sit on top of the foam roller and focus your mind and breath.
Core Stability: (22 min)
The core stability section on the foam roller is no joke! You repeat a series of exercises and movements 3 times while increasing your speed each round. The first exercise in the series are slow roll-downs onto the foam roller from standing. Standing with legs shoulder width apart and arms straight out, you sit on one end of the roller and slowly roll your back down onto the roller, one vertebrae at a time. When your head reaches the other end of the roller, you slowly roll back up with your arms reaching straight out until you return to standing. Way harder than I expected! I can do the Pilates roll-downs with ease, but trying to roll down onto an unstable surface is challenging!
On the last roll down, you stay lying on your back on the roller and move into bicycle abs with arms out to the side for balance. When you’re on the foam roller you engage more of your core than lying flat on the ground.
Next, you do straight arm planks with knee tucks towards elbows, and then regular plank holds with elbows on the roller. Again, much harder than standard planks on the floor.
After the planks, you do bird-dog with your knees on the roller. While trying to balance, you reach one leg straight back and hover the opposite arm in front of you, then alternate the legs and arms. Finally, lying on your stomach with the roller under your extended arms, you lift your chest as you pull the roller closer to your body and then roll back down to work the back muscles. All of the core stability exercises are way more challenging on a foam roller than on a mat. But, at the same time you also work more muscles per exercise, which is more efficient. You know I always love a challenge!
Myofascial Massage, Stretch & Recover: (55 min)
The 3rd section on the Flexible Warrior Foam Roller DVD is a complete body massage and stretch. A great recovery session for your off day. You work through each muscle group by first warming them up with a gentle massage on the foam roller with different variations to hit all the sides of the muscle. Then you stretch the muscles with a variety of static stretches for that muscle group. All the muscle groups in the session are common tight and sore spots for runners, bikers and swimmers.
- Gluteus Maximus (butt) and hips – My hips are always super tight and I’m constantly working them in all the barre classes. It felt awesome to massage out the priformis (side of butt/hip in photo above) and then do a variety of stretches to hit every little muscles strand.
- Hamstrings, hip flexors and shins – Very common tight spots for runners. I also learned a new yoga pose called the “dragon” that stretches out your shins and tops of your feet. In a low lunge position, you flip your back foot under so the bottom on your foot faces the ceiling, you press up with your hands on the front knee, and lift the back knee off the ground.
- IT Band - The most painful massage point! The IT band runs along the outside of your thigh and is one of the tightest muscles for athletes so massaging it is a love-hate feeling. I definitely need to work through the massage and stretches to release the tension.
- Upper, middle and lower back - We all have tight spots on our back and it feels AMAZING to self-massage all the right points on your back.
- Lats (below arm pits) and triceps - Massage and stretch the sides on your back and the back of your arms.
The final part of the session is recovery. For about 2-3 min you relax in a comfortable position to focus your mind on your breath and feel all the good work you did for your body.
The Flexible Warrior Foam Roller Yoga is an excellent training tool to help reduce muscle tension and improve flexibility. My favorite part was learning about all the variations of foam roller massage to target my soreness. I can see myself doing the Sun Salutation Warm-up on a regular basis to get an express massage and stretch compared to the full hour of massage and stretching in the 3rd section, a little too long for me. The core stability exercises will also be added to my fitness classes for a challenging variation of ab work.
Thanks for the DVD Flexible Warrior!!!
Order the Flexible Warrior Yoga Foam Roller DVD through Spinervals and get $5 off with code “flexwarrior”.