Today's Daily Tip
On a Roll
SPINAL RELEASE Position the foam roller horizontally under your shoulder blades—again lying on your back with your knees bent, this time with your hands gently supporting your head and neck-and roll your back (without arching it) up and down over the roller for at least 20 seconds or until you feel your muscles relax.
"This technique helps mobilize your spine, pinpointing stiff areas and releasing them," says Caroline Creager, a Colorado physical therapist and the author of Therapeutic Exercises Using Foam Rollers (Executive Physical Therapy, 1997).
DEEPER MASSAGE Lie on your tennis- balls-and-sock device, knees bent, with one ball on either side of your spine. With your butt off the ground (lower back straight, not arched) and head and neck supported in your hands, roll over the device to massage up and down your spine. When you find a sore spot, roll over it until you feel the muscle soften and release.
When you're really in a rush, grab some racquetballs and get a massage in your car. "You can put them between your back and the seat, and the motion of the car does the massage for you," says Sharon Kelly, a New York City exercise physiologist and massage therapist. (She prefers racquetballs to tennis balls because of their smaller size and greater give.)
For more about self-massage, check out the Yamuna Body Rolling system website (www.yamunabodyrolling.com). You'll find specially designed balls and massage sequences that go from the beginning to the endpoint of each muscle-so muscle-gripped areas like your spine can get as long as possible.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR Backs can be tricky, so don't use these techniques if you have an acute injury or symptoms that call for professional care (see "When to Go to a Pro," end of article). Also, don't roll your sacrum—the triangular bone at the base of your spine—over balls if it's unstable or the ligaments are loose. "Too much pressure can disrupt the joints between your sacrum and your pelvis," cautions Art Riggs, a certified rolfer in Oakland, California, and the creator of the seven-volume video series Deep Tissue Massage and Myofascial Release ($230 from www.deeptissuemassagemanual.com).
SOOTHING SORE FEET
WHAT YOU NEED Golf balls or (thick) empty glass soda bottles chilled in the freezer, or Yamuna Foot Wakers ($30 a pair from www.yamunabodyrolling.com).
WHAT TO DO Sit on the edge of a chair and place a golf ball or bottle under your foot. Roll the sole of your foot over the prop, pressing into the tight spots. Continue for three or four minutes and repeat several times a day. If a spot is too sore to massage directly, work around or in front of it. For deeper stimulation, try Yamuna Foot Wakers—nubby, sea-urchin-like domes you stand and rock gently on to massage and stretch the soles of your feet.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR If you're using glass bottles, be careful to avoid breaking them. And don't stand on the balls or bottles—you might fall and end up with more than sore feet!