As a massage therapist, people have always felt a sense of accountability to me. Aside from people thinking I'm a vegetarian because I "look like one," acquaintances or clients often apologize to me for smoking in my presence, eating heavy food, and most often, not exercising, stretching or foam rolling as often as they should. The number one thing I hear when I ask my clients if they've been foam rolling, is guilt.
"The roller allows us to not only discover what physical patterns of tension we've been creating, but what emotions might be keeping us from changing them."
Aside from the guilt of not doing it, I'm here to tell you something new about why you might want to roll; something that not even I realized until the birth of Remedy and hearing stories and feedback from others about rolling. It's that yes, foam rolling is a practice that supports and complements everything else you do. But, foam rolling is also an entirely different practice in itself, rather than just a supplement. What it offers us is far deeper and can stand alone as a practice that could be, with great satisfaction, your only one.
Scientifically speaking, rolling relieves stress and relaxes tense muscle tissue. First of all, simply compressing your muscle tissue forces it into softness. But that's certainly not all we're doing. Your nervous system runs through your myofascia (myofascia refers to your muscle fibers and the fascia weaved within them), and your nervous system controls all your physical reactions to things; reactions to allergens, reactions to information, reactions to movement, or lack thereof. When you get stressed, your nerves hold onto that too. Relaxing the sheaths and tissues around your nerves with the roller relaxes the nerves themselves. In turn, relaxed nerves means an easier, less edgy system in general. Take that, stress!
Rolling to soften muscle tension also creates more mobility within the tissues rolled. When your muscle tissue is supple, the fibers slide against each other creating better blood fluidity within the muscle, increasing the function and speeding recovery, so you can access strength when you need it. Picking up a heavy box is easier with tissue that's got dynamic blood flow in it! And healthy, fluid muscles will recover faster from something like being bent forward in your garden for several hours - another physical reason why we roll.
But it's even more than that. Rolling is pretty new, but massage is old. Massage, is indulgent, luxurious and passive, and because of that, a very small fraction of people do it regularly for well-being. But what if you could massage yourself? What do you think you could learn?
I've been doing bodywork on other people for over ten years, and before that, I was doing nothing but learning about my own body mechanics in a ballet studio. Nothing that I've ever done myself or had done to me has given me more reward than being on a roller. It's the most magnificent tool. Rolling around to discover my tension and then immediately being able to ease it is absolutely brilliant. The roller allows us to not only discover what physical patterns of tension we've been creating, but what emotions might be keeping us from changing them. Rolling is not a practice to make your other practices better--rolling is a practice of releasing, becoming intuitive and truly connecting your mind to your body in a way you can't otherwise access. It's about entering into a deeper place within yourself, letting yourself drop into your layers, discover patterns and enact real change.
In my rolling practice, I am so grateful to have observed such a huge shift of my own mindfulness. To accept the act of being open and to surrender to my ever-changing state of being is the biggest and most unexpected gift I have gotten from foam rolling. What are your experiences like with rolling? Drop us a line, leave a comment here or catch us in-studio to share. We would love to hear how your practices are going, or help you start one.