What does it physically FEEL like to do Mindful Rolling and Therapeutic Yoga?
How do you know if you’re doing it “right”?
It’s hard to talk about what someone might feel when they’re using massage balls for fascial release or what they might experience in a supported restorative yoga posture because everyone is so different. A big part of the experience is opening up to noticing how you feel in the body, the mind, and the breath.
Everyone has a different physical structure, emotional history, breathing pattern, and experience with postures, but there are still a few things that I teach as general guidelines for experiences poses and movement.
It’s NOT a matter of no pain no gain
Whether you are rolling on a massage ball in Mindful Rolling or going into a restorative yoga posture, you should not feel pain. Anything that calls your attention to discomfort at the joints is an indication that you need to carefully come out of the pose. It’s hard to know sometimes what something “should” feel like, but feelings of pinching, burning, sharp pain, or strong compression are signs that you should come out of the posture. Trust your instincts!
If something doesn’t feel right there is always some modification of that posture or there’s another posture that will give you the same benefits. And if you’re rolling on a massage ball and it’s just too intense or it’s pinching in another area of the body, there’s another way to work - at the wall or with a softer ball are just some ideas.
You’re not complaining!
There’s a good chance that when you get into a restorative yoga posture, you’re going to need to adjust some from what the teacher demonstrated or explained. You will need accommodations for what your body needs that day. So that might mean getting an extra blanket or moving into a version of the movement or pose that’s easier on your body.
When I’m in class or in a private session, I’m always checking with students to see if they are positioned correctly with the balls or the props and asking them how they feel. Even though I tell students to let me know if something isn’t feeling right, or if they are unsure of alignment or placement, I know sometimes they don’t speak up. I know this because sometimes I don’t speak up when I’m in a class and I’m not comfortable with a movement or posture and need help!
Here are some things that have run through my mind at times and I know students in classes think this way sometimes also when they are not sure how they feel in a position or movement:
I don’t want to bother the teacher.
I don’t want to seem like a pain in the neck.
I don’t want to be different from everyone else who seems to be enjoying the posture the way it was demonstrated.
I want to do it the “right way” (the way that the teacher described and demonstrated).
Have those thoughts ever entered your mind and left you staying with a movement or posture that just didn’t feel good to you? I know that I’ve done this, but I do it less and less as I come to understand that as a teacher I always want my students to feel good in their bodies.
You are not complaining or being difficult when you ask for help in a pose or for some confirmation from the teacher that you’re working in the correct spot with the massage balls. I love when people ask questions because I know that students have questions - especially when they are first learning a movement or posture, so I want them to experience it in the best way possible.
So ask away knowing until you are comfortable and confident in what you are experiencing!
Some discomfort can be useful
We know that we don’t want to experience pain at joints or sharp pain or anything that signals to us that this isn’t safe for our bodies. BUT...is there SOME discomfort that can be useful?
I believe that when we do Mindful Rolling we often feel sensations and trigger points that can be intense (in a good way!) because these are the places that need movement to release the fascia and need time and some gentle pressure with the breath to release.
The reason those places are tight and speaking to you are is because they need this movement of the massage balls to help to release the area. In this case, these sensations are useful and as we work more with the balls, we discover the details of sensation and what movements cause what sensations in the body and when it’s time to ease up or increase the intensity.
In restorative yoga postures, we will be in the posture for anywhere from 5-30 minutes generally and many times these postures are so deliciously relaxing that we don't want to leave them. But sometimes they can be something that our bodies need so desperately that there may be some mental and physical resistance.
In this picture I’m in a resting saddle restorative pose, which is not very restful for me!
When I first saw this posture demonstrated in my therapeutic yoga teacher training, it scared me just seeing it. I had thoughts of, “I can't do this”, I will need too many blankets, everyone will be looking at me, my teacher will think I’m annoying because I will need more props than other people just to come close to it and even then I don’t think I can do it!
So when I practiced it I did need extra blankets, and a block, and I needed to make a ramp so that my back could feel supported without a lot of back bending sensation. It was an experiment and it took a few times of coming out of the pose, changing or moving props, and then going back to it to see how it felt to get it “right” for me at the time. Even once I was in the posture I made some adjustments - I lifted my hips slightly and lengthened my tailbone away from my body and set it down on the block. This gave my low back some more space, which felt good.
Then I settled in, kind of...because the front of my body (quads, hip flexors, chest) are all very tight it wasn’t that deliciously blissful feeling that I get in some postures. It was more like, ‘I’m not in pain, but I'd like to get out of here pretty quickly’. So I lengthened my breath, set a timer and started out with 3 minutes in the pose.
Daily restorative challenge
Because I know it’s challenging for me, but not painful, I am making a commitment to doing this restorative saddle pose every day. I can either increase the time a little bit each day or start to lower my supporting props. I am hoping to take at least some weekly pictures of my progress to see if there are any changes in my props and if I perhaps get my spine closer to the floor. That’s not the goal though! For now, it’s just to breathe a little more comfortably into the safe discomfort a little longer and a little deeper.
Other aspects of Mindful Rolling & Therapeutic Yoga
This post addresses the physical aspects of the experience of fascial release with massage balls and through gentle restorative yoga postures. There is so much more to this type of experience, so stay tuned for more about what you may experience through therapeutic touch and energy work in these sessions.
Classes & Privates
My Mindful Rolling & Therapeutic Yoga classes are weekly in Garwood, NJ on Wednesdays at 7 PM and Sundays at 10 AM. Privates available by appointment on my website or email me at MindfulLifeOnDemand@gmail.com.
Visit www.MindfulLifeOnDemand.com to sign up for my newsletter and to learn more about the benefits of these amazing releasing practices.