Body Rolling is a therapeutic self- care practice for body therapy practitioners and an educational tool used by body therapists to empower clients to develop a deeper and more subtle relationship with their own bodies. Body Rolling improves any type of body- oriented practice, from massage and physical therapy to bodywork, yoga teaching, fitness training, and somatic therapies such as Feldenkrais and Alexander technique. Developed through seventeen years of bodywork practice, Body Rolling is an experiential approach to learning the language of anatomy.
It gives you-and enables you to give your clients-an understanding of muscle release based on internal sensory experience.
Body Rolling is practiced on a six to ten inch ball. While many people use balls in an improvisational way for stretching and bodywork, Body Rolling is practiced according to specific routines, in a sequence that follows the logic of the neuromuscular system. The general rule of Body Rolling is this: Muscles release from origin to insertion. Following this tenet, you place the ball at the point where a muscle begins, where its tendon touches bone. You release your body weight toward the ground via the ball, and then you wait and feel for change.
The pressure from the ball begins to stimulate the tendon, bringing increased circulation to the area. As the tendon becomes more elastic, it releases from its attachment at the bone, initiating a release through the entire muscle. This release translates into a sensation that the body is sinking deeper into the ball, while the ball is actually moving toward the muscle insertion. Once you experience this change, you will have firsthand knowledge of exactly how a muscle lets go and what complete release really is. Then you can transfer that experience to your work with clients.
Body Rolling will help you maintain the health of your own neuromuscular and skeletal systems. It helps you learn to listen to the useful information the body communicates to you, making it possible to develop greater control over your internal state and increase your ability to use your body more freely and intelligently, whether in your body therapy practice, for exercise or just in daily life.
The Origins of Body Rolling
Body Rolling grew out of a therapy called Body Logic that Yamuna Zake began creating nearly twenty years ago. Having practiced and taught yoga for over ten years, she knew a great deal about body movement and function.
Then, in 1979, three days after her daughter was born, her left hip gave way; in the moment that it happened she heard the bones separate. After two months of trying orthopedics, chiropractic, acupuncture, and other healing systems, none of which stabilized her femur in the hip joint or relieved the shooting pains in her side, she got frustrated and decided to figure it out herself.
Her theory was that the strong pressure on the pelvis during labor had caused microfiber tears in her adductors, making the left femur unstable in the acetabulum. Afterward, due to postpartum shock and exhaustion, these adductors temporarily lost their memory of function, only the hamstrings, iliotibial tract, and lateral quadriceps were keeping the leg stabilized.
The most lateral muscles had become extremely tight to compensate for the weakness of the inner thigh. She started using specific yoga postures to release this tightness. Holding a pose, She worked with her hands to release the tightness, allowing the inner muscles to begin functioning again. Within ten days her leg was more stable in the joint.
This experience led her to begin working one-on-one with her yoga students to help them overcome their bodies’ individual restrictions in performing postures. She began by placing people in a specific yoga posture, feeling for muscle restrictions, and using her hands to work those muscles into the stretch. She started at the muscle that originated the movement, moved to the muscle the first one fed into, and then moved to the next, continuing on through the line of muscles involved in the stretch, working to give each muscle its greatest length.
Soon people began coming to her with physical problems and injuries; of necessity, she began formal study of anatomy and physiology. As people came with more specific problems, she narrowed her focus from yoga to particular body complaints. And since she wanted to help in the fastest, most direct way, her work moved away from yoga into a practice in which she worked on the floor with the client lying over a pillow. With one hand creating traction, she used her elbow to work the point of origin of each muscle.
Over the years, in addition to working with everyday tension, postural problems, strains, and sprains, she has treated people with herniated discs; vertebral subluxations; shoulder, knee, and ankle injuries; multiple sclerosis; epileptic seizures; strokes; migraines; cerebral palsy; scoliosis; arthritis; vertigo; paralyses; sciatica; sports-related injuries, such as tennis elbow; and structural problems.
She has also assisted people in post-surgical rehabilitation. All this time her work remained true to the basic principle of hatha yoga: to remove all physical restrictions so that energy can flow unobstructed through the body.
Body Logic works according to the body’s natural logic and order: Wherever one muscle ends, another begins. Thus, its fundamental philosophy is to address a complaint in the context of the entire body, recognizing how the client has compensated for it and where that compensation begins in the tendino-muscular system, and then working systematically through the connecting muscle groups.
There is always a relationship between the muscles above and below a problem area–a knee problem, for example, will affect the foot, the hip, or both. The key to re-patterning is to see the muscles as a connecting chain and to release all of them, from hip to knee to foot.
Because many body-therapy practitioners are used to simply spot-treating the muscles in a problem area, they do not realize to what benefit they can use the fact that chains of muscles are linked. The key point for releasing pain in a given area is often in another area that is part of the same chain. One way to learn these connections is to work with the ball.
Pain and Stress Reduction
Body Rolling is perfect for prevention: prevention of headaches, lower back problems, back, neck, and shoulder tension and problems stemming from the repetitive stress syndromes that pervade our daily lives. Almost every structural problem can be greatly improved with Body Rolling. The routines are easy to follow and can be adapted to people of all ages and physical capabilities.
In addition, Body Rolling is a great stress and tension reliever. After a particularly stressful day, take just 5-10 minutes to body-roll your back and neck; rolling up the back affects the nerve roots of the spine, which sets off a deep relaxation response.
Or, if you have trouble sleeping at night, use Body Rolling to roll up each side of your spine. This brings relaxation — then sleep comes naturally.
With Body Rolling, the knots and twists that create everyday tension and tightness literally roll away.
Increase Energy and Stamina
With Body Rolling, you feel relaxed and energized at the same time. As your muscles elongate, alleviating tightness and tension, your body doesn’t have to work so hard. Everything becomes easier. Simple movements like walking, standing, sitting, twisting, bending become effortless.
Physiologically, here’s how it works. Using Body Rolling on your spine, you are stimulating the nerve roots of the spine. Each pair of nerve roots stimulates a specific organ function. Because of this stimulation, internal organs and systems can function better.
Similarly, as you do Body Rolling abdominal routines, you stimulate the organs of digestion. People often report that they are no longer constipated, no longer retaining fluids.
Overall, Body Rolling improves posture and alignment. When you stand up straighter, and all your parts are aligned, you have more energy and stamina. Simple as it seems, slouching robs you of vital energy! Body Rolling literally straightens you out.
People who are serious about their workouts, such as athletes and dancers, seek peak performance. Using Body Rolling helps! Runners who want to speed up their time use the ball to work thigh muscles. This way, they can eliminate muscle tension that might be slowing them down. Golfers can improve their swing and prevent lower back problems by doing Body Rolling back and side routines. Cyclers can prevent repetitive stress injuries in knees, hips, lower back and shoulders by doing Body Rolling leg and back routines.
Body Rolling is like giving yourself a deep-tissue massage. It is the “Aaaah” experience any athlete who is accustomed to sprains, strains and aches can relate to. Body Rolling is the ideal antidote to sore muscles and aching joints. This is the very least you can expect from it. It can do considerably more.
Who Can Benefit?
Body Rolling can be adapted to a great variety of clients; non- exercisers as well as exercise enthusiasts take to the ball easily. You can design specific programs for different needs. For example, after working on someone with sciatica, you will know which muscles are involved in that person’s sciatica pattern and can give the client a ball routine that will work those particular muscles to maintain the longer resting length encouraged during your session.
People who work out vigorously can use Body Rolling to unwind and to elongate their muscles, thus helping avoid injuries. No matter how fit an athlete considers himself to be, due to the nature of his sport or the pattern with which he practices it, some part of the body overexerts. During this era of extreme cultural emphasis on physical fitness, people who have not been exercising with any regularity might suddenly begin a fitness program that includes aerobics, weights, running, or another high- impact exercise.
But they almost certainly come to a quick halt due to injury, simply because they did not first take the time to feel and understand their own bodies. Body- therapy practitioners who treat structural problems know the importance of correcting postural patterns before training muscles; however, the practice of freeing up tight muscular holding patterns or correcting bad posture before beginning an exercise program is rare.
Even if people begin with private trainers, in most cases the trainer does not evaluate body structure and adapt the exercise program to his client’s needs. Yet, an exercise format that works well for one person can be an easy injury for another. Body Rolling enables you to say to clients, “Let’s first correct your posture and educate you about what your body needs. Then you’ll be ready to work out.”
Whatever your pattern of tension is, it usually shapes everything you do. Thus, a massage therapist with extreme tension in the trapezium muscles due to overwork is likely to maintain that pattern while performing her fitness practice, whether yoga or weight training. Body Rolling will help break such a pattern. It also works well for simply releasing tension from the day.
For people who hate the idea of exercise but feel they ought to exercise, or are told by a doctor that they must, Body Rolling creates an experience that is inviting (as opposed to one that feels like punishment). Even people who are overweight or badly out of shape find Body Rolling not only doable but enjoyable. These non-exercisers, many of whom may be uncomfortable about working with the body, will find Body Rolling ideal.
It is exercise in a non- exercise form, one that combines the relaxing, pleasurable effects of massage with the toning effect of exercise. And because change is evident right from the start, they are motivated to keep doing it. After sitting all day at work, one half-hour of Body Rolling is more beneficial than a heavy session at the gym for relieving stress and tension, discomfort, or pain.