Do you wear high heels or cram your feet into pointy shoes? If so, Eve Johnson has some practical tips on how to use Massage Balls to gently relax sorely neglected feet and stretch out those hamstrings while you’re at it.
Measure your hamstrings before you try this tip for the first time. Do this by coming into a standing forward bend with your feet hip distance apart.
Press down into your feet, lift your front thighs and open the backs of your knees. Unless you can easily bring your palms to the floor with your legs straight, use a yoga block or two, to support your upper body.
Make a note of how much height you need to place your palms flat, then roll up from your forward bend.
Now, stand close to a wall on a yoga mat or carpet, with one hand on the wall for balance. Place a ball under one foot and start to roll the sole of your foot over the ball. Experiment with the amount of weight you can put into the ball and still have an intense, yet pleasant sensation.
Drape your toes over the ball and massage the backs of your toes. Then work your way down the sole of your foot, all the way back to your heel. Roll along the inner and outer arches. Keep rolling for at least two minutes – it helps to set a timer or watch a clock – and then massage your other foot.
Once you’ve worked both feet, revisit your forward bend. You may be surprised to find how much you’ve lengthened your hamstrings.
Benefits: Our feet become cramped and tense from wearing restrictive shoes and walking on hard surfaces. When you massage the soles of your feet, you loosen the starting point of a network of connective tissue that runs all the way up the back of your body. Stimulating pressure points in your feet can relax and invigorate your whole body.
Sequence: Especially welcome after a long walk, this exercise can be done anytime, and almost anywhere. If you are free to take your shoes off when you sit to work, you can even keep a massage ball under your desk and do impromptu rolling sessions while sitting down. Do it at the beginning of a longer practice to bring extra awareness to all of your poses. Roll your feet every day if you can.
Ouch: If your feet are particularly sensitive, a massage ball may initially feel a bit harsh under your foot. Beware of excess enthusiasm. Stick with a moderate pressure and a modest amount of time—two to four minutes per foot if you’re standing, 10 if you’re sitting down. It’s possible to roll too much and too fiercely.
Eve Johnson is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor, co-owner of Yoga on 7th in Vancouver, and inventor of the app My Five Minute Yoga Practice. She strongly believes that practicing yoga five minutes a day can change your life. By taking a small amount of time in your action packed day, to do one pose, you can make a significant change in your hips, shoulders, core strength and stress levels. Gradually five minutes at a time, yoga will become part of your life. Once that seed is planted, there’s no telling where your practice will lead you. To get started go to www.myfiveminuteyoga.com.