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Yamuna Body Rolling is a relatively new craze to start sweeping the U.K. It first hit the U.K about a year ago and at the time a pilates teacher in our area was one of only 8 people in the U.K to be trained in Yamuna Body Rolling. Since then a number of pilates teachers and yoga teachers have trained and in our area alone there are now many therapists that have added yamuna to their routines.
What is it?
Yamuna body rolling is a method of lengthening muscles using a variety of small, inflatable balls. The idea is you place the ball at the origin of a muscle then slowly roll down bit by bit to the insertion to encourage the muscle to lengthen and create full range of motion. It has been called "a workout, a chiropractic session and massage in one" and was created by a lady called Yamuna Zake hence the name.
The balls range in size from 6 inches to 10 inches and can be deflated or inflated to create either a softer or harder ball to roll on. There are also some little half circular items called foot wakers (these have nobbly bits on them and are used to massage the feet) and foot savers (these are smooth and harder than the foot wakers so you progress to these).
The balls are placed between the desired muscle and the floor (or the wall if you have trouble getting on the floor) and you use your body weight to allow the ball to sink into the muscle and relax it.
Who is it suitable for?
Anyone can do yamuna body rolling, it's best if you can support your body weight and "travel" with the ball under you but if you can't a teacher can use a variety of items to prop you in position so you only have to rest on the ball and just move it down the muscle bit by bit then rest on it again.
Where can I buy the balls?
Until recently Amazon were selling a beginners ball (the largest one) but I've just looked and couldn't find it today. The balls currently come from the U.S so have to be ordered either online or through your instructor. There is a pump available to buy but as my teacher told me, it's just a bicycle pump adaptor on the end so if you can get one of these it's probably cheaper as the pumps are £13.50 alone.
The balls range in price, I bought a couple of the smallest balls and they cost me £23.50 for the two, the other sizes are usually bought singularly and cost about £10-£15 each, it depends on how much your instructor charges. The foot wakers and savers are about £20 a pair. It's really best to borrow balls from your instructor unless you know you'll need a certain size long-term as they are quite expensive.
What does it feel like?
Initially the ball will feel very round under the muscle, this is because the muscle contracts to try and stop the ball from pressing into it. You have to remain stationary for a few minutes until the ball feels like it's sunk into the muscle, you know this has happened when it doesn't feel like it's pushing you off anymore. Then you begin to move. As you move down inch by inch you can crossfibre (work across the direction of the muscle fibre) at the same time as moving along the length of the muscle fibre, your full weight must stay on the ball for the entire length of the muscle so you get the desired stretch though. So if you were doing the lateral thigh you would start at the rim of the pelvis, relax into the ball then crossfibre the area then move down an inch, relax into the ball, then crossfibre etc without lifting your weight off the ball.
The various different size balls are used at different stages of your progress (the newer you are to yamuna the larger and more deflated the ball used) and for different areas of the body (the smallest 6 inch balls are for smaller muscles).
My personal experience of yamuna.
When I first saw the balls my immediate reaction was "they are too large and soft to do anything". I squeezed a few in my hands and they are rubber and do give. I was very dubious.
My first session found me using a large ball under the lateral thigh to release the Iliotibial Band (down the centre of the lateral thigh), Rectus Femoris (Hip flexor down the thigh) and Biceps Femoris (lateral hamstring). I took a while to relax into the ball as my muscles are very tight, and once I had I started cross fibre moves. It felt sore, I have a variety of tight areas due to some back problems so I could feel this pulling on them.
It wasn't unbearable sore though like the foam rollers are in this area and I completed the length of the lateral thigh in about 15 minutes. This is worth mentioning too, if it takes 15 minutes to do one area you are going to have to support your body weight for rather a long time to do more areas. The muscles should relax quicker as you progress so you're in one position for less time but until that point be prepared for some aching ribs, arms and shoulders from maintaining positions.
Afterwards we moved onto the external hip rotators, these are the piriformis and co (I won't bore you with each name) that run from hip to sacrum or hip to sit bone, under the glutes. The ball used for this is the smallest one (the black one) and it too doesn't feel very hard, until you get it behind the hip that is!
This was really painful to begin with, I have some tightness and trigger points in the piriformis right behind the hip and this ball really pressed on them. Throughout the hip rotator session you sit up each time you move the ball to create more weight on the area. When you reach the sit bone you sit with the ball directly under it (agony the first few times!) and roll yourself backwards and forwards over the ball, then out to the side towards the hip.
But that's the general idea of the balls. Where you have tight knots of "deranged" muscles fibres from inflammation the balls break the knots up and then stretch the area as you move along the muscle and encourage the muscle fibres to organise themselves in the correct direction. Much the same as a massage session followed by stretches.
A good instructor will assess if you have any misalignment issues and target certain areas to begin with in order to align you better (that's where the chiropractic description comes from) then as you release these areas move onto more widespread release. It's best to see someone on a one to one basis to start with as in classes they just release everything which is not useful for those with some very tight areas and very weak areas.
Do they work? I have to admit my lateral thigh is feeling somewhat looser and some of the superficial lumps I had there have gone so yes, to a degree they work. But as far as the external hip rotators go I don't think they get in deep enough to deal with trigger points. I recently discussed this with a physiotherapist and she agreed with me after having some sessions herself so if you have trigger points these will still need dealing with in a more precise manner so it's not as good as a sports massage.
But overall they do provide a workout, just holding yourself in position really taxes the muscles (my biceps are alot firmer since starting) so it's best to hold yourself aligned for maximum results and contract the core for stability. They do work to a degree as a massage item, not deep precise work like trigger points, but you can get some decent release of the muscles, and if your teacher gives you a thorough assessment first (this is why one to one is best to begin with) you can work only on the tightest areas to improve alignment. The major bonus of this is you can do it everyday in the comfort of your own home so you don't have to pay for weekly massage etc.
If you have no back problems a class would be fine to relax muscles after a hard day or to just improve flexibility. If you have back problems Yamuna Body Rolling should be used alongside core stability exercises which is why so many pilates teachers have trained in this, the two go hand in hand very well.
These balls give you much more manoeuvrability than the old foam rollers and are easier to take on the muscles and yet work better too! I recommend it as a form of releasing muscles but with a good instructor, taking care of the core stability issues at the same time if there are any but just be aware if you have trigger points these will need separate attention. Also keep these balls away from the lowest ribs and tailbone or you can break them!
A session will cost from £5 for a class to £30 for an hour of one to one work.
Thanks for reading!
Roll your health into shape! Develop a fitness program using balls / from 6 / 10" in shape. The ball helps to release tension and increase blood flow as use roll over it.