October 18, 2013

Herb Salt to Get You Through the Winter

It's time to tuck in our gardens for the season.  If you have any herbs left I suggest harvesting them and drying them out.  If you don't have your own herbs on hand make a trip to the market for some (chives, cilantro, basil, etc).  Once the herbs are dried combine them with coarse sea salt in a clean coffee grinder and voila delicious herb salt to sustain you through the cold season.  Do this in small batches to avoid plugging the grinder and enjoy!

October 8, 2013

Yoga Therapy Balls

Through my yoga years I have been introduced to, and enjoyed working with many props and tools, among these a variety of balls.  This fall I had the opportunity to take a workshop on working with yoga therapy balls and would like to share with you some of what I learned.

Their primary use is for pain relief, posture correction, and performance improvement; this is done by the individual themselves.  Through exploration and self-massage you are able to uncover "blind spots" that may be contributing to dysfunction in the body.  These blind spots are outside of our field of awareness, and therefore we don't always use them well (i.e. overuse, underuse, misuse).  Proprioception is "the ability to sense the position and location and orientation and movement of the body and its parts."  Injured bodies often do not propriocept well, with the exception of pain points.

Rolling the balls over tissue, self-massage, improves our proprioception, and can also decrease pain reception.  When you roll on healthy tissue there is an absence of discomfort, whereas rolling on other tissues may feel sensationally intense, flagging that attention is needed.  I discovered that there was little unflagged territory on my body as I spent the day working my way through it with the therapy balls.

There are different balls you can use.  When you're choosing your ball remember that "like likes like", so choose something that is similar to the body and won't increase the tissue tension.  Here's a link to a scientific study if that's up your alley.

I like the Yoga Tune Up balls myself, but have also used others that were effective, such as balls from the dollar store.  An unpleasant side effect of rubber balls is that often my hands smell and taste rubbery after a practice. I don't recommend tennis balls, they are too hard, and break easily. There is not a single product that will meet every individual's needs, and my intention is not to product promote, so experiment and find what works for you.

Once you've got your balls (hee, hee) there are different ways to apply them.  You can rest on them, roll on them, or move your limbs around them.  For instance, placing the ball between you and the floor, weight bearing, will usually get you the deepest into the tissue, and is therefore often the most intense.  You can switch up the number of balls, and their size to decrease the intensity, two balls are less intense than one, bigger balls less intense than small.  A less deep/intense method is to place the ball between you and the wall, leaning into the ball only as much as you like.  For highly sensitive areas you can gently press the ball into the skin/tissue and roll it to release fascia/scar tissue.

Ready to start discovering your blind spots, doing self-maintenance on your body, and releasing some "issues from the tissues"?  Here's a few guidelines to get you started:
-avoid ball use in acute pain areas
- focus the balls on the tissue, not bone
-if it hurts A LOT, move the ball below, above, or to the side of the pain zone and work it there
-if you take the balls away and it still really hurts it's time to see a professional

Personal side note:  I have chronic neck tension and pain and short of having a full time massage therapist, living in an epsom salt bath, or going through tubes of Traumeel I've been seeking my own relief.  This summer I took a set of balls with me on holidays, where I often experience increased neck pain from different pillows and mattresses. In those instances when I woke up and found myself heading into the pain zone I would work the balls into my yoga practice finding the sources of tension and releasing the discomfort.  I was pretty amazed at how well this worked, and to have found a tool that is so portable and budget friendly is pretty cool.  Warning to folks living with dogs, do not leave balls on the floor when done using them, image attached :)