Dealing with stiffness or soreness?
How often is your body stiff and sore at the end of a long day’s work? Or right when you get up in the morning?
It doesn’t have to take you a long time or a ton of effort to make yourself feel better. Even as a professional myofascial release therapist, I’ll use these techniques to help me at home.
What you will learn today:
- How to use grounding to relax and pay attention to your body
- How to use breathing to connect with your body
- How to use the MFR therapist’s secret weapon
- How to correct your “rounded shoulder posture”
- How to use a yoga pose to restore your body
1. Ground Your Body
Thousands of years ago, Eastern practitioners developed grounding as a way to move energy. They believed making contact with the earth and exchanging energy would restore balance.
Whether that is true or not, grounding is an excellent way to relax and pay attention to your body.
The Grounding Exercise
- Place your feet on the ground as you sit or stand; you can also lay on your back. Notice the contact that your body makes with the ground.
- Now imagine roots growing from your feet down through the earth and growing deep down into the earth.
- Imagine energy (or water or anything that can flow) flowing from the ground up into you.
- Imagine your pain, your soreness, your negative emotions (or energy) flowing into the earth. They are leaving your body.
- Finally, imagine the two energies flowing in and out of your body at the same time.
From here, you can focus on your breath.
2. Focus On Your Breathing
Yogis use breath as a way to connect deep into their bodies, and refer to breath as prana or “life force”.
From a physical therapy perspective, the diaphragm is a primary muscle for breath. It attaches to the back and the muscles that are in charge of hip flexion. This is a common reason for back pain. Plus, it is also the first of 4 postural muscles in our core that stabilize the spine. You cannot strengthen the other 4 until you address the diaphragm.
People often don’t take the time to breathe because it seems too simple to be effective. I believe taking time to breathe is the most important thing you can do for back pain. Here is a home exercise for the breath.
The Breathing Exercise**
- In the same position as grounding exercise, put 1 hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Without changing anything, pay attention to how much your hands move. The hand on your stomach should move much more than the hand on your chest. (If not, no worries! Just see if you can redirect your breathing to go through your belly.)
- Now try to slow your breath.
Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds & then breathe out for 4 seconds. (As you begin to master this, increase the count to 5, 6 or 10 seconds. If it’s too hard, shorten the count! There’s no judgement here :)!)
- Repeat for 4-5 rounds.
- Return to your normal breath pattern and observe any changes.
** Certain pulmonary conditions may require different breathing techniques. If you have a pulmonary condition, please check with your physician or physical therapist before performing this activity!
3. Using “The myofascial release Therapist’s Secret Weapon”
For myofascial release therapists, this yellow ball is our secret weapon. You can buy this ball for yourself on Amazon. It may seem too soft to do anything, but give it some time, it’ll grow on you.
You can use the yellow ball to work on the front of your hips (below and to the side of the belly button), lower back and glutes.
The Yellow Ball Exercise
- Try to find an area that is more tender or sore than other areas. At first, you may not feel much…but just wait.
- Allow your body to start to sink into or “melt” around the ball. Your awareness matters, so be mindful during the exercise.
- Around 90 seconds to 3 minutes, you may notice pulsing or a feeling of “release”. Wait a few more minutes to let the feeling finish.
- Work on the area for 5 minutes. You may find that you are not just feeling better around the yellow ball area, but your entire body.
- Lift the ball up slowly and check-in. How are you feeling? Is the area you’ve worked on softer than before?
4. Addressing The “Rounded Shoulder Posture” Home Exercise
The pectoralis minor muscle lives underneath its better-known cousin, the pectoralis major.
It’s also the reason you see the “rounded shoulder posture” that so many people have.
The Pec Minor Exercise
- You can roll a couple of towels into a cylinder (or buy a foam roller) for this exercise.
- Lie down on the towel, so that your spine is on the towel with your head supported. You should be facing the ceiling and you should be comfortable.
- Lower your arms to the ground towards your hips.
- Keep your arms in contact with the ground. SLOWLY lift them towards your head until you feel a soft or gentle pull in the chest area. They should not go too far past 90 degrees. (CLARIFY)
- Relax here until you feel your body start to relax or release into this position. If it feels good, stay here. If not, move further towards your head until you feel another area of resistance. (CLARIFY)
- Do this for 5 minutes in order to have the full myofascial release effect.
5. Using Yoga To Fix Your Back
This yoga pose is incredibly restorative.
Here’s a video of the “Legs Up The Wall” pose so you can watch it as well!
But if you have back pain, please check with your physical therapist before doing this pose. Though gentle, it involves bending your body, which can harm people with back pain.
Most importantly, be mindful of your body when determining whether to perform this pose.
The “Legs Up The Wall” Home Exercise
- Find a wall with plenty of space and lie down with your feet towards the wall.
- Scoot forwards toward the wall until your hips touch the wall. Allow your feet to point toward the ceiling while resting on the wall. If your legs can’t go straight up against the wall, you can bend them a little or scoot your hips further from the wall.
- From here, you’re done working. Just relax, and pay attention to any cues your body is giving you.
- Finally, rest here for 5-10 minutes, or until you feel relaxed. When you’re done, tune into your body. Do the back of your legs feel softer? How about your back?
OPTIONAL: Practice your grounding and breathing exercises here as well.
Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, remember to use your body to guide you on which home exercises to perform. It is important that you stay in each position for at least 5 minutes for these exercises to be effective. If you can’t spare 5 minutes, reschedule for a different time!
It’s worth it, I promise.
Try to always stay mindful of your body and listen to how it’s feeling.
Although these are really simple exercises, they are powerful! Don’t underestimate how much these can help.
Finally, I hope you enjoyed this, I had a lot of fun writing it!