Tune Up Fitness® Tune Up Fitness Blog » Self Massage That Won’t Break the Bank

Self Massage That Won’t Break the Bank

In my massage practice, I am often met with clients who are trying to get out of pain.  In fact, I would say it is a rarity that someone schedules an appointment for a massage but does not have some recent or long term aches that they would like me to help them work out. What is interesting to note is that there is an equal number of yoga practitioners and non-practitioners who enter my office to find relief in their physical body.  If yoga is so effective at lengthening muscles and relaxing your body and mind, why do so many people doing yoga still experience pain in their tissues? For example, take my client for the last year, AH.

AH is a 26 year old male college student and devoted Anusara practitioner.  He originally came to my office for massage therapy to help with the continual tightness and pain he experiences in his upper back and shoulders.  Although he practices yoga an hour or more daily, he could not adequately stretch the muscles between his shoulder blades (the rhomboids) and get the tightness and soreness to disappear.  As the school year grew more intense with papers and exams, so did his pain.  His daily postural habits of reading, writing and computer work of course, only aggravated his condition. I knew after palpating his upper back that there were many layers of trigger points (palpable knots within the muscle that are exquisitely tender) to work through and that we would not be able to address them all unless he were to come to my office a few times a week.  Not a likely reality for an extremely busy (and financially stretched) college student!

To give these trigger points adequate treatment, I encouraged he try using Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball Upper Back and Rotator Cuff kit during his yoga practice time (some techniques from this kit are posted in the video below). This way he could address his trigger points as frequently as they needed and the balls could provide a similar quality of treatment given by a massage therapist’s hands. I also gave him specific instructions for treating his trigger points (see article When Stretching Just Isn’t Enough for more info on trigger point therapy). After one week, AH reported markedly less pain overall, increased range of motion in his shoulders and upper back and an improved sense of empowerment and confidence for being able to effectively take care of himself whenever he needed.  In fact, he experienced so much relief on a daily basis that he often carried the balls with him and would even roll on them (quietly) in the library while studying!  So whether your muscles are held tensely from life as a student, a parent, or a conditioned athlete consider incorporating self-massage on the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls, and you will be rolling your way to freedom in your tissues.

Read about self massage for pain.

Check out our Post athletic stretch DVD

Learn about our Self Massage Therapy Ball Programs.

Watch more of our videos on YouTube.

About This Author

Lillee Chandra, L.M.T. is a former competitive gymnast, dancer and acrobat who specializes in teaching injury rehabilitation, prevention and self-care. She is a licensed massage therapist, a certified Yoga Tune Up® Teacher, the lead Anatomy Yoga Tune Up® teacher trainer for nationally recognized yoga schools and has assisted Jill Miller for several years. Known for her keen intuition, she compassionately leads anyone to become healthfully aligned in their life adventure.

Self Massage That Won’t Break the Bank

  1. Katiana Paré says:

    I am so happy to be introduced to this roll out for the rhomboids, it’s a part of my back that I never even think about until I feel the balls press deep down and try to soften the tissue.

  2. Heather says:

    This is one of my favorite sequences with the YTU balls. Everyone could use a little upper back treatment and incorporating the breathing also helps to down regulate the system.

  3. Lisa says:

    I liked the pitchfork movement of the arms; it really allowed the balls to find the sore spots on my back easily.

  4. Kaelyn S says:

    Before learning about the benefits of the Yoga Tune Up balls, I thought my daily 1hr Vinyasa practice was all I needed to release the tension built up in my body throughout the day. Man was I wrong! Because we are constantly creating tension in our bodies, 1 hour of yoga is simply not enough. The Yoga Tune Up Balls not only released tension in places that were obviously needed attention, like my shoulders and neck, but also in places throughout my body I did not even know were tight. That said, the Yoga Tune Up balls should be used by everyone. There will always be parts of the body that need some lovin’, every day. I feel more relaxed in my body than ever before. It is amazing to me how much the difference in just three days with my practice as well as my day to day routine. And to Lillee’s point, you don’t have to spend the cash or make an appointment to feel the tension release from your body. You MUST try these!

  5. carol says:

    My first use of the therapy balls today was not a complete success, possibly because I was not actually working on a trigger point (I was just practicing the use of the balls). But I expect to have plenty of reason to engage this therapy on a regular basis, particularly in the trapezius area as described (a frequent source of bad spots). Thanks for explaining the mechanics behind the therapy!

  6. Aranzasu says:

    I seriously thought that by doing yoga as much as possible I was getting all my muscles to relax. There’s no way I can continue to do this to my body without tuning up. Thanks for this article and for everything I’m learning about different parts of my body and how to take care of them.

  7. Allison Shapiro says:

    I am just back fresh from Yoga Tune Up teacher training. A client came today for her 2nd visit, exhausted from a trip to care for a family member and in severe shoulder pain. Twenty minutes of yoga tune up ball therapy and she leaped up off the mat to hug me. The balls may be cheap but they made me feel like a million bucks today!

  8. This sequence effectively stretches and releases the Latissimus’ grip on the rotator cuff; wonderful!

  9. I’ve known and loved self massage techniques for a long time. It wasn’t until the YTU Therapy Balls that I found a tool that more effectively addresses the superficial layers of fascia and connective tissue. Great article and tips here on how to use them for an area most of us need work on, the shoulders.

  10. Tracy says:

    i am a recent convert to the balls. I carry them with me wherever I go. Aside from the obvious relief from chronic tension that they help to facilitate in my muscles, I am finding them indispensable tools for helping me to absorb the anatomy lessons that are part of the YTU TT. It is one thing to look at a muscle, talk about a muscle, use a muscle– those are all helpful methods for learning. But for some reason rolling a muscle (or around a bony landmark) is such a novel and immediate way to have direct access to my own anatomy. What a great addition to my learning experience. I honestly don’t know how I lived w/o them. I notice when I use them in my classes there are almost always a few ball sales in the yoga shop afterwards. They really are addictive. And what pleasant side effects. Ah.

  11. Joanna Bond says:

    Yes! Sometimes yoga is not enough! Or rather, maybe we just need to shift it up a bit. We are humans and creatures of habit, and many of us like our yoga to be the same day in and day out. Just like we probably brush our teeth with the same arm and hand movements every single time we brush. Why not switch it up one day, to see if we can awaken something new or even just balance ourselves out? Look at all the myriad possibilities in the world of yoga, it’s easy to overlook poses. I recommend trying a different teacher or a completely different style of yoga every now and then. I used to practice in a studio with tons of mirrors on one wall, and one day our teacher made us turn around so we couldn’t see ourselves. You wouldn’t believe the complaining that went on! However, I realized that day that I didn’t really know where my body was in space unless I had that cue of the mirror, and I resolved to FEEL my body, rather than LOOK at it. It was a revelation! This is one reason why the ball work is so nice – you FEEL, and let go. And boy, do we have a lot to let go.

  12. Marc says:

    I like the reminder that yoga is often not enough. For so many of us, asana is not in and of itself complete enough (even when very effectively sequenced) to fully address all the complex moving parts in the body. Add to that the relatively repetitious nature of so many asana classes and we have a whole other set of muscles that need self care. I’ve found YTU ball work is a welcome addition to any physical endeavor. Any. Whether a long distance runner, yin yogi or couch potato you are going to find a benefit from ball work. None of us are immune from gravitational pull and habitual movement patterns. Like brushing the teeth is a way of sweeping clean the plaque we know builds up overnight, YTU ball work is a practice of sweeping off built up joint and muscle ‘plaque’.

  13. Sarah says:

    A few years ago, I was doing quite a bit of traveling for work. After three cross country flights in one month, My upper back and shoulders were constantly uncomfortable. The cause was probably long hours spend typing on a laptop or sleeping with my head dipped towards one shoulder. I wasn’t in pain, but rather a bit stiff and pinchy. Stretching didn’t seem to provide any relief. I can imagine that this particular exercise with the Yoga Tune-Up balls would have provided the relief I wasn’t getting through stretching alone. They would’ve been perfect for a busy traveler, because they balls are lightweight and small (thus, easy to carry) and the exercises can be done in a hotel room when time allows.

  14. Catherine says:

    I can’t wait to try this technique RIGHT NOW. I always am sore in my rhomboids from using the computer at work and carrying such heavy bags. Getting a massage is super expensive and I can totally relate to AH’s story. It’s amazing what simple things you can do to help yourself. I might need to start carrying these yoga tune up balls around with me as well 🙂

  15. g-mo says:

    i love this technique – my rhomboids hold SO. MUCH. TENSION. mentally, i know that it’s there, but until i hit the floor with my tune up balls, i don’t realize how bad it is. the other eye opening thing is that it’s really amazing how healthy the tissues in my lower back feel compared to my rhomboids when i roll the YTU balls down the length of my spine. wow-wow-wow. i’m such a fan of the YTU balls for taking care of my muscles and not breaking the bank!

  16. Roselea says:

    As a fan of the YTU balls I can’t help share with my yoga students. At the beginning or the end of class I try and squeeze in a 5 to 10 minute self care roll out. I wish I could give balls to all my students.

  17. Andrea Penagos says:

    I can relate as a regular practitioner and a college student. For a couple of months, the stresses of being in school and hunching over books and computers gave me this constant sharp pain under my right scapula that nothing, not even yoga, could address. It was really deep in there and it was frustrating trying to find a pose that would effectively work out the knot. I had it treated to much success with acupuncture, but now having now gone through a ball sequence for shoulders and thoracic back muscles in the YTU teacher training, I realize I could have prevented the pain with regular self-care or rubbed the pain out myself right when it started!

  18. Caroline M says:

    Thanks and praises for this article, video and Yoga Tune Up balls. Who doesn’t want a free massage as often as you like? It’s one thing to have the YTU balls and another thing entirely to use them to maximum efficiency. The main reason I love YTU is that it empowers people to get to know and take care of their own bodies.

  19. cindy says:

    i have to say after a week of Yoga Tune Up Training…. I see a huge difference in my range of motion/flexibility. I have crazy tight hamstrings, hip flexors…you name it and I’m tight there. I haven’t done any other aerobic conditioning all week , just YTU and I see how much more open I am. I am aware that I need to balance my exercise with tune up balls at home for sure!

  20. t'ai jamar says:

    Hi Lillee! I love passing on the balls/and all that YTU has to offer to my clients… Sometimes days or a week passes between our bodywork sessions and the progress seems limited by the continual aggravation and minimal muscle stimulation/stress reduction due to budget or time, etc.. Sometimes I feel like we are on a hamster wheel in and out of pain but not able to move the muscle/fascia consistently/daily…and while I joke that the YT balls will put me out of business… it actually gets my client invested and interested in their self-care and they value the difference; it empowers them and it helps my work get deeper and more specific. And the balls translate this inner awareness of sensation and relaxation. Even just 5-10 minutes a day can make all the difference in the world.

  21. The Yoga Tune Up Balls are great. There is no end to this stuff. I have constructed a whole bunch of cheap tools for self massage that I use all the time. It’s so necessary.

  22. Laura says:

    I was introduced to this exercise this weekend and definitely feel like it is getting to a place I rarely stretch, especially putting the YTU balls between the shoulder blades. I actually like to roll them a little higher to really get into the middle and upper trapezious fibers, which is where i seem to carry stress during headaches.

  23. Tom says:

    I am so very happy to have been introduced to the Yoga tune Up balls this past weekend – YES, such results.

  24. Bella Moon says:

    I’m on board with AH! I used the magic balls for the first time this past Sunday and pain that I had in my shoulders and upper back have lessened. My lower back seems to have less pain as well AND I sit taller. All after 1 day of instruction.

    I also felt powerful and responsible as well. By taking the magic balls into my own hands and moving my body and feeling what’s working and not working – I was able to connect with my body and go into the areas where I needed to go.

    Thank you Lillee! You are AWESOME!

  25. Matt Kennady says:

    It’s actually a great and useful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Sarah J. says:

    My father suffers from major back and neck pain and has for years after suffering a broken neck over 20 years ago. He is a self proclaimed hater of massages by other people and this is the PERFECT thing to get for him. This self practice has been so helpful for me, especially when I don’t want to spend the money on massages which can be so expensive!

  27. Great post Lillee-

    I know I’ve become totally addicted to giving my Rolfing clients YTU ball protocols, and it has made a huge difference for all of them. Addictive things those YTU balls!

  28. Teresa Heit-Murray says:

    I have a minor curve in my upper back due to scoliosis and I use a computer frequently. I think this looks like an exercise for me. I wonder if my chiropractor will notice a difference in my muscle tissue.

  29. Gina T says:

    I use the ytu balls on my back several times a week. What a huge improvement!

  30. Kim C says:

    My yoga tune up balls help me alleviate stress. I never knew self massage was possible!

  31. Megan says:

    This video/exercise is amazing. I love my Yoga Tune Up balls. The only problem I have is that my dog thinks it is time to play every time I try to use them. 🙂

  32. Ariel Marcoux says:

    I’m so obsessed with SMR, I never even think to go to a massage therapist! Love it!

  33. Becky G says:

    I haven’t tried using the yoga tune up balls on my chest. Thanks for the idea Lizzy! I’m always looking for ways to open my shoulders and upper back.

  34. Elizabeth E says:

    I also experience a lot of tension and knots in my shoulders. Using the Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls to massage my upper back has helped me so much! I use them regularly and that area feels so much more open and spacious than before. I’ve also been amazed by how much using the Yoga Tune Up balls to massage my chest (the area under my clavicles) has helped make my shoulders and upper back feel more relaxed and open.

  35. lisa Moontague says:

    My husband has very similar complaints as AH in the blog. I have been trying to massage but he still has tightness. I will try getting him to roll around on my tune -up balls and see if he gets relief. Should be interesting!

  36. Karla Huffman says:

    I’m still trying to make the yoga tune balls more a routine in my daily practice but my father on the other hand uses them everyday. The first night I purchase the balls, my dad was visiting, and I wanted him to try them out. My father has been on his feet for the last 35 years working. I have notice in the last few years he doesn’t stand up completely straight, probably to compensate for standing for long periods of time. When we first used them on his back, he screamed bloody murder(a comment my family uses to explain pain), and then about five minutes later he felt a difference. He says it still hurts when he uses them but he feels a difference in his posture and lower back pain he has had for such a long time has become less and less an issue.

  37. JulianaSalas says:

    We did the exercise with the Yoga Tune Up Balls during our workshop at Pure Yoga Teacher Training in Boston, and every participant discovered that after rolling on one side for about five minutes the arm gained about an inch and a half! Our tight tissues had shortened our reach. Even people that were not experiencing pain gained the length which goes to show tissues must be massaged on a regular basis to maintain adequate proportion. Pain is usually an extreme indicator that the problem has gone unaddressed for far too long. ROLL ON and REMAIN HAPPILY PAIN FREE. Love your fuzz and massage it.

  38. Alexandra says:

    I have so much tension and sensitivity in my rhomboid muscle from an old rotator cuff injury and the Yoga Tune Up balls help me release some of that tension. Just spending 5 minutes in that area makes a huge difference! I used to frequently get deep tissue massages but now I can just use my Yoga Tune Up balls and save lots of money!

  39. Felicia says:

    Lillee
    Thanks for a great article….. Many years back I was involved in a hit and run accident that left me with neck, upper back and shoulder injuries. Over the years, I have found that over use of my muscles in front the computer or during dance, yoga, spinning,etc… leaves me in pain. Jill introduced us to the Yoga Tune Up balls at a training session last month and in the last 30 days I have had a lot of relief. Using the Yoga Tune-Up Balls on a regular basis has helped to really loosen the trigger points so when i choose to get a massage, the therapist is able to make even more progress than in the past.

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