I want to talk about balls. Not the kind you can get away with grabbing when you’re a celebrity. Not the kind of balls it takes to call your political opponent ‘nasty’ or the kind you want to hurl at your television on occasion – or three occasions, or lately every time it’s on. I’m talking about the antidote to all the stress of life, dancing, and this political season – massage balls! (Only 3 more days, world, we can do this!)
Seriously though, self-massage using massage balls is great at releasing tight areas. Balls are inexpensive, portable, and easy to work with. You probably already know that massage increases circulation, and brings blood and oxygen to muscles allowing them to relax. What you may not know is that releasing muscles and ligaments that are gripping can also help them perform better, allow the correct muscles to engage, and enable your body to function better! While getting a massage is a wonderful treat, using balls whenever and wherever you need is easy on your wallet and your schedule.
Where to get Balls:
You can use tennis balls, though I prefer a slightly harder ball like the Pinky Hi Bounce balls pictured above that I got in the toy aisle at my local drug store. (In Harlem the balls even come in iridescent shades!) Google says you can buy them on eBay for $4.78. They are three inches in diameter, slightly smaller and firmer than tennis balls. Some people prefer the harder lacrosse balls which are the same size but I find those balls are a bit too hard for me.
A word of caution: if you are experiencing serious pain that is not going away, please go to a doctor! Also, for my type A friends, go easy with the balls, and don’t roll over bones, or any sensitive areas. Don’t confuse sensation or tenderness with out and out pain, and stop if you feel any weird (bad) zinging sensations indicating you may be irritating a nerve. Be gentle with yourself, always.
Here are five ways you can use balls for massage:
- Back Massage: (For those of us with long hair, tie your hair up before doing this one so you don’t get your hair caught under your balls). Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Press your feet down and lift your hips high and put the balls together in the middle of your back so the balls are on either side of (not ON) your spine. If your balls want to roll away from each other you can put them in a little ball sack. Heh. But, yes, I’m being serious. Press your feet into floor to roll yourself down (and the balls roll up) until the balls are near where your shoulder blades are. This area carries a lot of tension and may feel tender at first. Breathe into the sensation and allow yourself to relax and sink into the balls. If you want more pressure, press your feet into the floor and lift your hips. If you need less pressure, you can do this same thing with the balls against a wall instead of the floor, bringing your feet close to the wall for the least amount of pressure. Once the initial area of tension has dissipated, roll the balls slowly up towards your neck or down your back, stopping to breath and relax into each new area of tenderness.
- Hips: Stay on your back but open one knee to the side so you’re halfway rolling to your side. Put one ball under the fleshy area of your butt. You may find some tender areas in there to release especially as you roll towards the side. Prop yourself up on your elbow for more pressure. You are releasing your gluteal muscles and as you get more on your side, your piriformis, a muscles that runs between your outer hip bone and your frontal hip point. This muscle gets sore with a lot of walking or when you do a lot of frappes – your standing leg, that is. When you find a good spot, you can get deeper into the muscle by slowly straightening and bending the leg you tilted to the side, or moving the leg in any way that feels good. Recently I was having some pain in the front of my hip and when I used the balls to release this area in the back of my hip that was gripping, the pain in the front of the hip lessened remarkably. Don’t forget to breathe as you are doing this. When you finish rolling out one side, switch to the other hip.
- Hamstring massage: Sit on the floor with your legs bent. Straighten your legs out in front of you as you place one ball under each thigh. Press down into the ball and turn your leg in and out from the hip to roll across the muscles of the hamstring as opposed to up and down. Move the ball up or down your leg to the next area and then go back and forth across the muscle fibers.
- Shoulder blade: Lie on your back and and put the ball under your shoulder blade. Move your arm straight up and shug your shoulder up and down to get into the muscles there. Gently open your arm to the side to ‘cactus position’ and you may feel a stretch across the front of your shoulder.
- Foot Massage: Step on your balls to massage the arches of your feet. Place one ball under your foot in the arch near your heel. Add some pressure and then release and move to a different spot and repeat. This maybe particularly beneficial if you have plantar fasciitis. You may find it helpful to roll gently adding pressure as you can tolerate it. Or roll the ball lightly underfoot with less pressure.
I hope this helps ease the tensions in your body if not in the political scene. Those tensions can only be solved one way. Vote. See you on the other side, and see you at the barre.