Myofascial release, most commonly used amongst athletes and physical therapists, is also proving to be a simple and direct approach to finding success in your Yoga practice. The progress within your poses and practice relies heavily on breathing, balance and having the extensibility in the muscles involved. Certain limitations can be avoided with an understanding of the tissues involved, and their role in the foundation of each movement. Using some standard, staple poses below, we will outline the corresponding muscle groups to foam roll that encourages the combination of active release and your dedicated, prolonged yoga practice. Improvements can be made at a safe level for beginners to advanced practitioners. A follow up series on the strength-related exercises to assist will be covered in future content. Let us outline where your current practice lies and how some simple tips can improve range of motion, stability and flexibility.
Takeaways from this article will include:
- Breakdowns of foam rolling in conjunction with Yoga
- Improvement in posture and stability
- Reduced strain during yoga practice
- Reduced risk of injury during more complex poses
- How to manage individual needs while blending poses and active release
Here is an example of the “ chair pose” seemingly simple, yet torturous and humbling to most yogis. It requires a stable core, strong quads, open hips, and lumbar spine. It also requires open shoulders and stable scapula. The corresponding images outline how to position yourself on the foam roller, to release restrictive tissues that limit the “chair pose” and create more difficulties than necessary.
Opening up through the t-spine, finding alignment with neck and chest, finding and releasing tension in the quadriceps to help activate more strength, and releasing calf muscles to improve ankle mobility and overall position. Invest in 1 -3 minutes per position, and then attempt a “chair pose” again, and record the improvements.
In the next breakdown shown above, we emphasize the limitations with the forward fold. It requires flexibility throughout the posterior chain, and a relaxed set of hamstrings, and inner thighs. Using the foam roller to release calves, glutes, and hamstrings, along with the adductors (inner thighs) during a mock version of the “forward fold” should greatly improve your depth, and comfort in this standard posture.
Shown here, we the classic “ warrior 2” pose, the must do pose for any seasoned yogi, or anyone at Potato chip rock . This pose requires a steady recruitment of the leg musculature, an open set of hips, and a relaxed chest and shoulder girdle. We would suggest paying attention to foot placement, hip position, and balancing the upper shoulder posture to align with mid-back. An additional benefit to the upper back foam rolling, is a better connection to your ribcage, therefore improving the quality of the inhale and exhale during practice.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Dog follows a similar prescription for improving mobility and position, the relationship between the calf and hamstring are crucial to achieve full extension through the posterior chain, also releasing the adductors via standing foam roll forward fold, is an easy way to alleviate hip/psoas tightness. Follow that up with the shoulder opener and chest stretch, to insure the best recruitment throughout the upper back to support your arm position.
Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog requires a lot more attention to detail than meets the eye, tightness in the shoulders can lead to a crowded upper arm position, and restrict the opening of the chest. Once again the quads play a big role in the ability to extend fully through the hip joint, and the mid-back is always in need of lengthening.
This is a widely utilized pose in multiple disciplines of yoga, and has some simple improvements that can be applied to certain areas. The adductor tightness is a recurring theme in finding optimal position with lower body poses, and can be easily managed with the inner thigh release. Also the calf tension being managed will greatly improve the heel placement.