RECOVERY AND SELF-CARE: SELF-MYOFASCIAL MASSAGE WITH YOGA THERAPY BALLS.
Yoga therapy balls can be purchased HERE
A few things to note before you roll out:
Keeping the yoga therapy balls in their tote disperses sensation and minimizes depth of pressure
There are a few different sizes of therapy balls. If the standard size therapy balls are too intense, try sizing up with the plus therapy balls
If it hurts, don’t do it. Back off from a particularly sensitive area and work around that area – but be sure to BREATHE!
Any specific questions, shoot me an email: email@example.com
Consistently stretching your feet will increase mobility. The bones of your feet are designed to move with every step you take and foot mobility influences how your ankles, knees, hips, and spine all move and align with one another.
Standing next to a wall for stability, place a yoga therapy ball underneath the ball of your foot. Let your body weight sink in and slowly roll the ball from big toe mound to little toe mound back and forth for one minute. Be sure to roll ball on inside and outside edges of feet. When you are finished with one foot, stand with feet hip width apart for a few breaths, noticing the different sensations in both feet. Practicing body awareness and staying present throughout the stretches focusing on your breath, helps to relax the nervous system and you will release more tension/tightness in your feet. Do this stretch every day!
The quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle resides deep in your lower back and stabilizes your pelvis and lower back, assisting in sideways flexion of your spine and lower back rotation. Tight QL’s are often overlooked as a source of low back pain which can also mask as back pain.
Lie on your back with knees bent. Place a block or blanket under your head for support. Place two yoga therapy balls under the right side of your body (between bottom of back ribs and top of hip to start). Take slow deep breaths in and out through your nose (remember that holding your breath sends a signal to your nervous system to tense muscles – fight or flight). You can stay here if this is enough of a stretch. If you need more, you can slowly tilt body over to the right gently rolling back and forth. You can also hug your knee into your chest. Hang here for a few minutes and switch sides.
The hamstrings include three separate muscles that work together. The three muscles, semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris (which has two heads) flex the knee and extend the hip (except for one head of the biceps femoris). The hamstrings also cross and act upon the joints of both the hip and knee. Tight hamstrings can cause the hips and pelvis to rotate back flattening lower back and causing back problems. Tight hamstrings can also be responsible for postural problems and other back problems as they tend to pull the pelvis out of normal position. A hamstring strain can be a pull, a partial tear, or a complete tear. Both stretching and strengthening exercises are important. Start on a chair. Using a yoga tune up ball (the larger alpha size), find an area in your hamstrings where you feel tight. Place ball under tight area and stay there for a few breaths before moving leg side to side (across muscle fibers). Bend and extend leg a few times before moving to another spot on hamstrings. You can roll out hamstrings every day at work, when traveling, basically whenever you are seated. This particular stretch is better seated as it does not engage sciatic nerve.
The IT band runs along the outside of the thigh, from just above the hip to just below the knee (stabilizing and moving the joint), and is made up of fascia. The IT band is the largest piece of fascia in the human body. One part of the IT band stretches as the limb swings backwards, storing elastic energy. That stored energy is then released as the leg swings forward during a stride (potentially resulting in an energy savings). A tight IT band can cause pain on the outside of the knee, tenderness, and sometimes swelling.
Start on your side with bottom leg extended and top foot grounded down in front of leg for stability. Take two yoga therapy balls (in their tote) and place them perpendicular to the IT band. Rather than running the balls up/down length of the IT band, try rolling them across the width of thigh in small sections. Regular sized therapy balls can be used, or the larger plus size roll model method balls (if you know your IT ban is very tight). Repeat rolling sections over entire IT band and switch legs.better.
Place yoga therapy balls in their tote on top of a yoga block. Settle right shin in middle of tote. Roll shin up and down from the bottom of knee to top of ankle. Roll out for a few minutes and switch sides.
TFL - TENOR FASCIA LATAE
TFL is a muscle which helps in flexing and abducting the thigh. When the TFL muscle is tight (or shortened), pelvic imbalances can lead to pain in hips as well as pain in lower back and lateral area of knees. Place two roll model therapy balls vertically along TFL (where pant pocket would be – on outer thigh). Step top leg in front of bottom leg, grounding down foot for stability and to control amount of pressure. Take a few deep breaths letting muscle settle in and then roll slowly up and down over therapy balls (small controlled movement).
LAT (LATISSIMUS DORSI) STRETCH
Lats are one of the biggest muscles in your upper body. Your lats start in the vertebrae in your lower back. They go all the way up into the middle of your spine and extend out to your shoulder, inserting into a groove in the humerus (upper arm bone). Tight lats make it difficult to reach up and will limit ability to externally rotate arm, which can increase risk of rotator cuff injury. Begin on your right side, placing two yoga therapy balls right below your armpit. Either keep legs extended or ground top foot down for more stability (makes it easier to control pressure). You can place a yoga block under head for support. Stay here for a minute or so and then start to roll your body over the therapy balls from under shoulder to low back. Hang here for a few minutes and switch sides.
PEC (PECTORALIS MINOR) STRETCH
The pectorals minor is a muscle that becomes easily shortened and tight due to many factors, included rounded shoulder posture, glenohumeral joint dysfunction, breathing dysfunction, and a variety of compensation patterns. This can cause significant problems for the shoulder joint, neck, and can lead to biceps problems. Place two yoga blocks underneath shoulders and a yoga therapy ball on top of each block. Lay chest over therapy balls lengthening arms behind you, rotating arms so palms face up. You can place an additional block or towel under forehead for support. Stay here passively for a minute or so. You can then inhale raising palms toward ceiling, and on your exhale, lower arms back down by your sides.
Muscles of the forearms close fingers into fist and open; move the wrist; rotate forearms from palm down to palm up position. Overuse or misuse of the forearm muscles through stressful movements and holding patterns cause fascia around muscles to change to help muscles carry workload. The fascia becomes thickened and sticky and begins to glue layers of muscles together. This inhibits/restricts movement of muscles required to move fingers/wrists. Keep yoga therapy balls in tote for this exercise. Place forearm over middle of tote and roll length of forearm. Opposite hand supporting forearm to help control pressure. You can use a desk or table (or yoga block for extra height). Do this for a few minutes and switch sides.
CALF ROLL OUT
The calf is comprised of two muscles, gastrocnemius and soles. They start at the knee, travel down the back of the calf where they join together to form the Achilles tendon which attaches to the back of the heel. Gastrocnemius comes from just above the knee whereas the soles starts just below the knee. The calf muscle works to pull the foot downwards (plantar flexion) and stabilize the ankle. As we walk, run and jump, the calf muscle pulls the heel up to give us power we need to push up off the ground. Because they take on such a critical role in mechanics and daily movement patterns, calves require a lot of maintenance: you should regularly stretch the muscles, as well as do specific exercises to strengthen them. Start in table top pose with knees hip width apart, curl toes under for support. Walk hands in so you are kneeling (use a blanket under knees if they are sensitive). Place yoga therapy balls in the middle of calves and start to lower hips down to create compression. This can be very intense to start, you may need to place blocks under hands to help control pressure. Breathe here, and eventually bring tops of feet down on the mat and sit back for 10 deep breaths. You can repeat along the length of the leg.
RECOVERY YOGA POSES FOR ATHLETES
Yoga Poses to Balance the Nervous System
This is a fantastic passive hip and groin stretch. From your back, come into butterfly pose – soles of the feet together, knees out wide. If this is too intense on inner thighs, place blanket or blocks under knees for support. You can also move feet further away from body. Arms can rest down by your sides, or hands on belly bringing awareness to breath. Stay here anywhere from 5-15 minutes.
EXTERNAL HIP ROTATION
From you back with feet on the ground (hip width apart), walk your heels in until they are close enough for you to reach with your fingertips. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Be sure to flex your right foot (and spread your toes) to protect your knee. Actively press your knee away from you, using your right hand to gently guide thigh away. If you need more from this stretch, reach both hands for back of left leg. Option to rock side to side massaging low back on ground.
FULL BODY LATERAL STRETCH
From your back extend legs straight out in front of you. Bring feet together crossing right foot over left. Extend both arms overhead. Left hand reaches for right wrist. On an exhale, stretch right arms up and over to the left. Drag both heels to the top left corner of the mat, trying to make a “C” curve with your body. Breathe here for 10 deep breaths and switch sides.
QUAD/HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
From your back, feet to the ground all the way as wide as the mat. On an exhale, drop your knees over to one side (keep feet wide). If it feels ok, gently stack your foot on top of your opposite knee (no pressure on your knee). If that feels ok, send your bottom foot over until your bottom knee is stacked directly under hip. Let both hips drop down. Take 10 deep breaths and switch sides.
IT BAND STRETCH
Start on your back with right leg extended, hugging left knee into chest. Lengthen left leg up to the sky flexing foot. Right hand (or yoga strap) reaches for outside of left foot. Keeping both hips grounded on the mat, start to move your left leg across your body to the right. This is a small movement, maybe a few inches. Press actively through big toe and little toe mound grounding left hip down even more, while keeping right foot flexed.
This belly-down version of savasana has been proven to restore the nervous system, specifically helping to reduce anxiety. You’ll need a yoga blanket folded the long way (3x lengthwise). Blanket should be about six inches wide.
Lie over the blanket so that it is under your belly (not under hips). Try to get blanket between hip bones and lower ribs. If hip bones/lower ribs are directly pressing into blanket, this can cause compression in lower back, so refold the blanket to make it narrower if necessary.
Stack hands and rest head to either side or forehead down on hands. Breathing in and out through your nose, try to make your exhales slightly longer than inhales. Stay here anywhere between 5-15 minutes.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR ATHLETES
Essential oils are easy to take on the road, and can help enhance immunity, improve sleep/relaxation, and reduce anxiety (to name a few benefits). Creating self-care routines are especially important for athletes because of travel schedules. When changing time zones and playing frequent games, routines are helpful for regulating nervous system function. Athletes can easily pack these three essential oils (available at health food stores and amazon) and use throughout the day. Read more on what aromatherapy is, which three oils I recommend, and how to incorporate oils into your day.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a natural, non-invasive modality designed to assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself by the use of essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated oils that have a strong aroma. Essential oils are extracted directly from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant or tree. They are typically created through the process of distillation, which separates the oil and water-based compounds of a plant by steaming. Essential oils are composed of very small molecules that can penetrate cells.
Three oils I recommend for athletes:
Sweet Orange: immunity enhancer, energizing, enhances clarity, antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, digestive stimulant and circulation-booster
Use: AM shower/routine; before practice
Peppermint: Supports digestion, improves focus, boosts energy, fever reducer, headache, muscle pain relief, antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antioxidant.
Use: pre-game ritual
Lavender Oil: anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antibacterial, anesthetic, immune-boosting, and antiviral.
Use: post-game; bedtime; evening shower
How to use essential oils:
In the shower: Wet a washcloth and add 8-10 drops of essential oil. Place washcloth on chest while in shower for a few minutes. Place the towel somewhere in the shower closest to face level.
On your feet: The soles of your feet are able to absorb essential oils much quicker than any other area of your body (feet don’t contain sebaceous glands which act as skin barrier). Rub three drops of oil on the soles of your feet. You can wear socks after you apply oil if preferred.
On your body: Use just one drop rubbed between fingers and massage into temples for 10 deep breaths. Use remaining oil on fingers and rub on wrists.
In the locker room: Make a cold compress with a towel. Soak towel in cold water and apply five drops of oil. Roll towel and place in fridge to cool. Use before and during practice.
Basic Breath Awareness
This gentle introduction to diaphragmatic breathing teaches you how to breathe more fully and consciously.
Benefits: Quiets and calms the entire nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety and improving self-awareness.
Try It: At least once a day, at any time.
How To: Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment. Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.
Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.
We will be learning to equalize the length of your inhale and exhale.
Begin to focus on your breath – observe it without trying to change it. Begin to lengthen both inhale and exhale by one count. Bring awareness to whichever part of your breath was shorter, your inhale or exhale. Begin to lengthen it one count at a time, until your inhale and exhale are equal. It’s important not to force the breath to do anything; this will tighten the diaphragm and, most likely, your face and neck muscles. The forcing and tension will also stimulate your nervous system. Do this for three minutes. Slowly open your eyes. Feel the difference.
We will be learning to deliberately make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. This breath ratio slows your heart rate and calms your nervous system, making it one of your most powerful tools for emotional balance.
Slowly close your eyes, breathe through your nose. As you breathe, count the length of your inhale and exhale. When your breath is longer, experiment by lengthening your exhale. At first, make it just one count longer than your inhale. For instance, if you breathe in for two counts, let your exhale be three counts. See how the longer exhale feels. Do this for three minutes. Slowly open your eyes. Feel the difference. Bring your attention to your mind. Have your thoughts become slower or calmer? What about your emotions?
Alternate Nostril Breathing
We will be learning to inhale and exhale through one nostril at a time. This can lower the heart rate, reduce stress and anxiety.
Slowly close your eyes. Hold up your right hand. We will be using our pinky finger and thumb to gently press on our nostrils to retain the breath. Pinky finger will cover the left nostril and thumb will cover right nostril. Starting with the thumb covering the right nostril, breathe in for the count of four. Use the pinky to cover the left nostril (both nostrils covered) – hold your breath for the count of four. Pinky continues to hold the left nostril shut, open the right nostril and breathe out for the count of four. Keep thumb off right nostril and breathe in for the count of four. Close nostril so both are closed and hold breathe for the count of four. Thumb stays on right nostril and breathe out of left nostril for the count of four. Continue on with your own breath for three minutes. If your nose gets stuffy, gently press higher up on the bridge of your nose to clear your nasal passages.
Allowing yourself time to progress through these exercise gradually will ensure the benefits take root in your nervous system. These are just a few different breathing techniques that you can practice every day for stress relief.
We will be learning to deliberately make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. This breath ratio slows your heart rate and calms your nervous system, making it one of your most powerful tools for emotional balance. Slowly close your eyes, breathe through your nose. As you breathe, count the length of your inhale and exhale. When your breath is longer, experiment by lengthening your exhale. At first, make it just one count longer than your inhale. For instance, if you breathe in for two counts, let your exhale be three counts. See how the longer exhale feels. Do this for three minutes. Slowly open your eyes. Feel the difference. Bring your attention to your mind. Have your thoughts become slower or calmer? What about your emotions?
How do I meditate?
Just like yoga, there are many different types of meditations and ways to meditate. I learned Transcendental Meditation (or TM) and have been practicing for several years. The idea behind TM is to keep it light and effortless. Rather than focus on any one thing, you use a mantra (or word) to focus and refocus whenever you notice that your mind is wandering. If you have taken a TM training, your meditation teacher gave you a personal mantra. If you are just practicing on your own, you can choose any word that is calming to you. I’ve practiced meditation consistently, but like my yoga practice, it continues to change over the years. I would love to say that I am a morning person that gets up early to meditate. That is not the case. Mornings are not my thing. But I have found that my mind is quietest in the morning. So I downloaded a meditation app (Erich Schiffmann’s), which is essentially a timer with soothing bells. I meditate every morning with the app for six minutes. Six minutes – that’s it. Not 30 minutes or an hour, which I would love, but I’m just not there right now.
What is supposed to happen when you close your eyes?
Am I in the meditation zone the whole time? Of course not. I would like to be, but I have random thoughts, ideas, worries, etc. that is normal. When you are meditating, when you notice that you are thinking, try to relax. Come back to focusing on your breath or the word you chose before you started.
Do I have to sit in lotus pose?
Absolutely not. In fact, I don’t think lotus is a safe pose for most of us, so I don’t teach it. Get comfortable. You can sit, you can lie down, get cozy with blankets and pillows. Really.
What if I fall asleep?
No big deal. That’s normal too. That just means you need more rest. Don’t be hard on yourself, just try it tomorrow.
The more you meditate, the easier it becomes.
Really. It starts out really hard and you might not have even a second that passes without a thought. But the more you do it, the more you get used to it and start to find some quietness in your thoughts. Which is another reason why I like meditating in the morning. my mind is quietest when I first wake up.
How often should I meditate?
As often as you want to. If you can meditate morning and night, it’s a great way to stay calm and balanced.