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Hip, Hip Hooray! Yamuna Body Rolling at Willard Beach Studio in South Portland

++ Get out (but, like, not too far). We all love and appreciate the positive effects of the Maine outdoors. Hopefully we’ll be back to all kinds of adventuring soon. But for now, press pause. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has some great advice: stay close to home, steer clear of busy locations, keep your distance (and stick to walking/hiking with folks from your household). ++

Hip, Hip Hooray! Yamuna Body Rolling at Willard Beach Studio in South Portland

Yamuna Body Rolling

My right hip aches after I hike or sometimes after a long walk or short jog (all my jogs are short).

It didn’t used to ache. I don’t remember my body yelling back at me when I was in my teens or 20s. I supposed that’s the glory of being in your teens and 20s. You’re broke, sure, but your body is pretty resilient. Now I wake up with a stiff neck or feel my back tighten with every hour I spend lurking over a laptop. My body isn’t quiet anymore. Maybe yours does a bit of shouting, too?

A couple of years ago (perhaps prompted by my continued complaints about my aching hip) a friend gave me a Yamuna body rolling ball – a grape-fruit-sized thing that squished when I squeezed it. It’s for massaging your muscles, she said. Perfect, I thought, and I put it in my hallway closet and never looked at it again.

Until last Monday. Last Monday I went for a jog in the woods (I maintained a decent run for over 20 minutes! That’s HUGE!). My hip, however, wasn’t impressed. I could feel it getting cranky as I walked back to the trailhead. It would only get crankier as the afternoon went on, stiffening every time I sat down for more than five minutes at a time.

Willard Beach Studio's sandwich board offers a good nugget of wisdom. Shannon Bryan photos
Willard Beach Studio’s sandwich board offers a good nugget of wisdom. Shannon Bryan photos

When I got home, I busted that ball out of its solitary place on the closet shelf, got down on the floor, and I body rolled. My hip – and whatever muscles and tendons I’d been aggravating there – rejoiced. Even better, when I got out of bed the next morning (fully expecting my hip to let out a yelp as it often does), my hip didn’t say a thing. Not a thing!

So what got me to finally give that long-forgotten body roll ball a chance (and the knowledge to know what the heck to do with it)? A body rolling class at Willard Beach Studio in South Portland.

Last week I went to one of the studio’s hour-long body rolling classes (Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Friday at 9:30 a.m.). I knew nothing about body rolling (aside from, “it’s for massaging your muscles,” of course). I’d used a foam roller once, does that even count?

Left: Putting the white ball to work on the left hip during a recent Yamuna Body Rolling class at Willard Beach Studio. Right top: An array of body rolling balls of various sizes. Bottom right: Brenda has an awesome app that shows you what muscles and tendons you're working. Shannon Bryan photo
Left: Putting the white ball to work on the left hip during a recent Yamuna Body Rolling class at Willard Beach Studio. Right top: An array of body rolling balls of various sizes. Bottom right: Brenda has an awesome app that shows you what muscles and tendons you’re working. Shannon Bryan photo

Like foam rolling, body rolling stretches out those muscles and tendons that get so darn tight, allowing for improved range of motion, injury prevention, and much-needed tension release (which means less ache in the hip for me). The size and shape of the balls (which come in varying sizes from 4 to 10 inches and in different densities) allow you to really “get in there” in a way that’s tougher for the foam rollers.

The soles of the feet and the toes get a good stretch on the foot wakers. Shannon Bryan photo
The soles of the feet and the toes get a good stretch on the foot wakers. Shannon Bryan photo

At my recent class, instructor and studio co-owner Brenda Cyr started us off with foot wakers. The dome-shaped things are covered in small, firm nubs and look like something you’d find growing in clusters on the ocean floor.

We stood with our feet draped over those nubby domes, using the wall for support, letting gravity and our own body weight press our soles and toes into the foot wakers’ pebbled surface. Some of the foot positions felt awkward at first (Brenda encouraged us to do one foot at a time if any of the stretches were too intense). And others hit the spot in that, “oh yea, right there,” kind of way.

The body rolling ball feels so good on the hips. Shannon Bryan photo
The body rolling ball feels so good on the hips. Shannon Bryan photo

Then it was on to the hips (I think hips are always a part of the class, but Brenda did ask us which muscles/areas of the body we wanted to focus on during this class. I yelled, “HIPS!”).

There’s no hard and fast rules regarding which size ball to use, or which firmness, but Brenda offered recommendations for the newbies like me who had no idea which ball was which. If I wanted to swap it out with softer or firmer ball, all I had to do was ask (and at one point, I did).

Our movements were slow and methodical, the ball rolling in a long line over our hips and then back again, our body weight and gravity again helping the cause. It felt so good. And then, there it was, that super tight spot in my hip that groaned with release as the small black ball pressed into it. Brenda said to take our time in spots like that. And I did, returning to it a few times, squeezing my muscle and then relaxing it again, letting my weight sink over the ball. And wow. Relief.

Rolling on the lower back. Shannon Bryan photo
Rolling on the lower back. Shannon Bryan photo

We  worked on our backs for a while, too, reclining on gold balls pressed between our shoulder blades. The balls rolled up toward the base of our skulls, they rolled down toward our lower backs. And again we moved our bodies slowly and methodically over the balls, pausing in spots that asked for it.

I couldn’t name the particular muscles and tendons that called out to me for relief, but Brenda pulled out an iPad with a cool anatomy app on it that allows you to drill down to specific muscles and joints to see how things connect and why tension might be building up. She also has a mini skeleton.

Brenda Cyr gives her back some attention during a body rolling class at Willard Beach Studio. Shannon Bryan
Brenda Cyr gives her back some attention during a body rolling class at Willard Beach Studio. Shannon Bryan

By class end, I had a new appreciation for the Yamuna Body Rolling ball. There’s some pretty big massage in that little thing, and taking a class helped me figure out how, exactly, I’m supposed to use it. That’ll come in handy at home when needed, too.

Yamuna Body Rolling

Willard Beach Studio, 382 Cottage Road, South Portland
207-767-1857
www.willardbeachstudio.com and www.facebook.com/willardbeachstudio/

5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 9:30 a.m. Fridays
$18 drop-in, $129 10-class pass

Upcoming Body Rolling Workshops:
Yamuna Body Rolling Intensive, Friday, June 17, 9:30a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Yamuna Body Rolling & yoga for deep hip and leg release, Thursday, June 30 6 to 8 p.m.

 

Shannon Bryan

Shannon Bryan

I don't like "exercise" any more than you do. But you know what I do like? Paddleboarding with a friend all afternoon (and then sitting in the grass to drink chardonnay). Bike rides and nachos, hikes, yoga classes held in breweries, group paddles to Fort Gorges, you get the idea. Because Maine is my gym.