Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Hurts So Good: Foam Rolling Supports a Sustainable Yoga Practice and Active Lifestyle

Self-myofascial release (or SMFR) targets 'trigger points' in
the muscles, releasing tension and toxins while improving
flexibility and blood flow. Come get your roll on!

Yoga - like anything - can hurt or heal you. 

I’ve witnessed many students’ bodies, minds and hearts transformed by the power of asana, breath work and meditation. 

But I’ve also seen - and experienced first-hand - how painful chronic injuries can result from practicing in a way that’s overly aggressive, unbalanced and unsustainable.

Yoga is supposed to eliminate our bodily aches and pains not cause them, right?

Popular yoga in the West tends to have a disproportionate focus on sweaty, vigorous strength-building forms of practice - which can be excellent for burning through the stress and blockages of body, mind and heart. I first fell in love with this kind of yoga and I still teach and practice it sometimes. 

But like any repetitive physical activity, yoga will expose and exacerbate pre-existing imbalances in the body - i.e. one dominant leg works harder than the other; one shoulder or hip over-compensates for the weak side with an old injury; chronic tight back continues its unconscious default of taking on the lion’s share of the work, etc.

When we repeatedly work the body without proper recovery, it’s only a matter of time. Eventually tight, knotted, shortened muscles create stresses on joints leaving the body vulnerable to injury.

It’s usually not muscle but joint-related injuries that cause us to cease the practices we love. So why not make them sustainable by mindfully treating the day-to-day stiffness in our muscles and connective tissues resulting from practice? 


One super-effective way to loosen things up is self-myofascial release (SMFR) using a foam roller. The basic technique is this: you use your body’s weight in various positions applying sustained pressure as you roll over and release “trigger points” or sore spots that form in the muscles or tendons.

It’s like giving yourself a deep-tissue massage without the expensive masseuse. And if you’ve ever had one, you’ll know, at times, it’s a bit like tough love: in the moment, it does not feel so good, but you feel wonderful afterwards. 

I bought a foam roller a few years ago when I learned about the benefits of SMFR but it mostly just sat in my closet. My quads, hamstrings and IT band were so tight that I avoided the short-term pain of rolling despite the relief I knew it could bring.


When old hip and knee issues flared up again, I finally committed to rolling as part of my personal wellness program. I have to say it’s made a huge difference. Now I can run, cycle, hike and practice yoga without any joint pain or risk of injury. I feel free and strong in my body again. And I am truly owning my practice. 

Wanting to share what I’ve learned, I’ve recently design a 60-minute group foam-roller class set to soothing sonic beats where people can come get their roll on in a fun, relaxed small-group setting. The preregistered sessions will run out of my small home studio space located near Pandosy Village beginning in March. Cost will be $60+gst/4 classes with small group sizes so we have plenty of room to roll around!) For more information and to choose a session convenient to you contact me at 250.864.8401. 

Namaste, Jenn

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