Since my first roll on Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls, I knew I ‘kneaded’ it. My soft tissues were rock solid from years of poor posture and a lack of awareness. The only time I had decent posture was while sitting at the piano – the rest of the time I was a schlumpy mess. I attempted to hold my upright piano posture at my desk, but my underused back muscles only cried “uncle” as we slumped to defeat. I was an athlete growing up, and while very active, stretching was not part of my repertoire. So, when I placed the YTU Therapy Ball into my upper trapezius, the ensuing sensation that traveled up the side of my neck and face was a clear wake up call that something needed to change. I was tired of sitting at my desk with neck pain, shoulder pain, and recurring tension headaches.
While I continue to roll daily, what I didn’t realize was that the YTU Therapy Balls do more than just fluff and rehydrate my knotty tissue. Since that fateful introduction, I diligently roll, rub, and release muscles daily from head to toe.
What I also gained, was only realized when I did not roll. In addition to rehydrating tissue, nourishing cells, and unwinding kinky fascias, the YTU Therapy Balls’ special grip also stimulates a nerve ending that lies within your superficial fascia. Ruffini endings are specialized nerve endings found in the deepest portion of superficial fascia (also known as membranous fascia) that help to down regulate the nervous system. You know how the grippiness of the balls grabs on to many layers of tissue and piles them up as you wiggle and roll? This action directly stimulates the Ruffini endings as they respond best to slow deep force at an oblique angle (grip and grab!). This is also one explanation of why you feel so relaxed when you are done rolling.
The magic of the Ruffini endings was fully realized for me after an only slightly busier than normal week. I was left depleted –wanting noting more than to curl up in bed and sleep. This was very unusual for me, and I started to think about what was different about this week from the others. And then, it hit me – rolling. I had been so busy all week that I had neglected my regular therapy ball practice.
Unless you live in a deserted place, stress is inevitable for most of us. Even the mundane daily tasks can be incredibly taxing on your nervous system. Take driving for example – you strap yourself in to a 3,500 lb tin can and barrel yourself at 65 mph around other tin cans. I may be a technologically savvy woman, but my nervous system is still operating at dawn of homosapiens levels. Even if it’s not conscious, your nervous system is constantly running under some level of stress.
Your mind, body, and nervous system need to unwind from their daily stressors. While others may choose chemicals or distractions to help unwind, I needed a more hands-on approach, and YTU Therapy Balls have provided me just that. After a good rolling session, I was ready to go. The following Monday seemed a breeze – even though my workload was no less.
What better way to unwind and recharge your nervous system than with the completely portable Therapy Balls? They are my go-to stress reducer, and are always right there when I knead them.
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So excited to find this article as we just touched on the Ruffini’s in training and now this gem of info is so great to share with my students and extra science to back it all up.
This is so encouraging to remind me to roll more and my very stressed out mum; who loves the balls but forgets to use them!
I didn’t know about the Ruffini’s but I am familiar with the way that rolling just about anywhere on the body seems to create a powerful sense of down-regulation. We don’t always need to roll for relieving pain or fixing tight spots, we can roll just for the sake of chilling out.
Ha, you crack me up (perhaps you should be pursuing an additional career in comedy – just sayin’) and I totally get what you’re saying. And yes – those tin cans are legit enough to make my blood pressure rise. Really enjoyed the Ruffini endings reminder – hadn’t thought about those puppies much in the last week, so it was good to bring that back to the surface with all of the other fun stuff from L1 training with you last week. Thanks for including video suggestions at the end – totally checking those out!
“Take driving for example – you strap yourself in to a 3,500 lb tin can and barrel yourself at 65 mph around other tin cans. I may be a technologically savvy woman, but my nervous system is still operating at dawn of homosapiens levels. Even if it’s not conscious, your nervous system is constantly running under some level of stress.” those lines are a real portrait of the modern man, the concrete man! Where is the fun to play like a kid, to create a happy world with all that stress…Try some ball, and relax. The world need more happy people to create a new world…May be we have to pay the bill, but we have some choices: with ball or no ball.
Once you discover this it is like a secret that you want to share with EVERYONE! I have many people telling me either “oh I hate foam rolling”or “I’m just fine with my foam roller, thanks”. How can someone not try something new, for one, is sad. But I work to explain that it can increase lasting effectiveness of the fascia release because the foam rollers get mostly superficial fascia, very little skin shear, and can get in to all these spaces that matter. They are also just too hard in density in my opinion. These balls and this program have been the missing link. I want my balls with me everywhere, and I’ve given away so many sets. I hope I can earn the right to get out there and help people with this method.
Thank for pointing out an added benefit to rolling out that many students may not be aware of. I love that these blog entries are so informative for anyone, independent of their background, in one way or another. Down-regulation of the nervous system is so incredibly important in today’s society. The added personal touches of what you yourself learned is a stand out of this article in my opinion!
This phenomenon of therapy ball massage affecting the nervous system in such a direct and potent way is hard for communicate to my students/potential students sometimes, so thanks for the succinct summary. There’s definitely no substitute for actually FEELING it, but maybe next time I’ll drop some knowledge about the relationship between the grippy balls and our Ruffini endings!
Thank you for this article. It was so informative and interesting to learn about the Ruffini Endings and their role on our nervous system. The more and more I learn about YTU and the benefits, the more amazed I am. I absolutely love it!
Such a great reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves, not only our bodies but our mental state. We are so busy in our daily lives, it’s important to take even a few minutes to roll on these amazing magical tools!
After taking the the Science of Rolling and Ball Sequencing and Innovation workshop with you in Anchorage, I was hooked on rolling and love the support that they give me in my yoga practice and daily life. I, too, get overwhelmed in the daily craziness of 21st century life…really, things are just not supposed to be this fast-paced. However, it is, even in tiny Juneau, Alaska — my ball practice is so important, transformative at times and always a stress-reducer. And, it does seem that my day feels upside down when I don’t take the time to do my areas of need!
Who knew that rolling 2 balls on different parts of the body would produce such a deep, transformative healing effect! It’s like having my own personal massage therapist without the huge price tag. Thanks Alex for a great post.
Your story about how regular rolling with the YTU Therapy Balls helps keep your nervous system calm is really inspiring. It’s definitely an effect of the practice that might get overshadowed by the whole “relaxing the muscles” part of the work. When you think about it, I guess taking the time to roll on the balls is not only therapy for your body, but also an act of mindfulness. You have to be present and focused and think about your breath when you roll on the balls. Everything else can drop away, kind of like in meditation. Lovely!
Great explanation of the benefits of rolling, especially the Ruffini endings! Love it!
Hi Alex! I could not agree more with your story! When I begin to roll out my fatigued muscles on the therapy balls it begins to silence my mind. I am able to turn down the volume of what is going on inside my head to focus on what is going on internally within my muscles and body. I love rolling out before I go to sleep because it relaxes my body and my mind simultaneously.
Thank you for sharing your story, and especially the fact that when your regular ball routine was neglected that you felt depleted, it is a good reminder to keep healthy habits!!
Hey Alex! Another great article. I realize that I “knead” it as well! The ruffini nerve endings make sense. An even more compelling reason to roll daily!
Alex, the last time anyone made any mention of the ruffini endings was in physical therapy school, over 9 years ago. Your story is similar to mine and I actually thought the balls were no good for me because the pain was unbelievable. I decided instead to have an open mind, and realized that the balls weren’t the problem, it was my tissue. But it too was a wake up call for me. And less expensive than seeing another practitioner when a little self care could go a long way. Thanks for the anatomy explanation, I’ll definitely be using it with my patients =)
Alex, It is a great practice to roll daily as the tension just creeps in creating all kinds of issues. I used my balls 4 times today and today is a good day!
Ah, the yoga tune balls have been key to addressing the self-induced misery of tight tissues that have accumlated from years of sitting in a library. (Or course, I usually use my car–a tension intensifier–to get to get to the library). Now, I am curious about Ruffini endings. It’s fun to say: Ruffini. But who was was he? Ruffini? Back to the library. . .balls in the backpack.
Stress tends to get stuck in the front thights, creating a long cramp of the quadriceps muscles getting us ready to run or fight. Long lasting stress creates a tention in that area, ready to be rolled away with the YTU balls.
Alex- love the technical explanation of the benefits of rolling. I also think that getting into a routine itself can help to minimize the stress.. If you’re constantly trying to squeeze rolling in, it’s going to add to your “to-do” list and make you feel more behind. Making it a habit, like brushing your teeth, walking the dog, etc., can turn it into a little relaxation time for yourself each day.
It’s interesting that I do feel a sense of relaxation afterwards despite the pain associated with working out the trigger points with yoga tune up balls. I postulated that that could be due to the relief of tension but there is a lightness and reduction of anxiety that seems difficult to explain. Perhaps your explanation is correct – but also relief of muscle tension often creates tension in the mind that manifests as fatigue/anxiety and simply relieving muscle aches can lead to a sense of ease.
After the YTU training I have been using the therapy balls daily! Busting them out at friends houses while chatting over coffee or a glass of wine massaging forearms and triceps has led to full on roll outs and stretch sessions 😉 I love spending time and energy like this with friends. Since using the YTU therapy balls I’ve noticed I’ve been sleeping sounder and carry less stress in my upper back and neck, hallelujah 🙂
Thanks for this post. Having chronic shoulder pain (“boulders in my shoulders”) for as long as I can remember, I’ve spent most of my adult life as a massage junkie. Massage provided instantly gratifying relief and I would even mentally plead throughout the course of a massage, “Please take it. Please take the pain away.” Bodywork administered by others is great, until you rely on it too much, relinquish your own self-healing power, and it loses its efficacy (as well as depletes your bank account). Too much of anything does that. The YTU therapy balls restore that healing power in my own hands, in myself, and it’s amazing how much difference they make. Still, it’s interesting how just 10 minutes from head to toe can feel like “a chore” when habits are staunchly ingrained. Why is self-care so difficult to enact? It takes that mindfulness to develop positive habits for lasting change and constant awareness. Process, process, process.
Thanks for this post Alex!I After last weeks’ YTU training, I am now replacing my foam roller with the YTU therapy balls to help with not only my posture but with the constant knee pain I still have when being physically active. I want to share my experiences with using the YTU therapy balls with my friends and clients and want them to understand that they knead to use these daily as well.
I couldn’t agree more! I always have the best intentions when sitting at my desk, in regardings to honoring my posture, but after sometime I slack and my posture caves. As a result of poor posture, I often getting tension headaches as well. Since beginning the Level 1 Certification training with you and Jill I have redidicated myself to maintaining and preserving my body, starting with the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls self-massages.
I felt the same way when I was introduced to them in Lillee Chandra’s YTU Embodied Anatomy class! I “knead” these balls, and I want my friends and family to “kneeeead” them too!! Haha! I’m so glad I met you, and this is such an exciting journey for me. I’ve been working hard in my day job, my night job, and my own yoga practice and hobbies, and I don’t get to roll out on them as much as I’d like to, but I agree with rolling on them every day. It doesn’t mean I’m rolling out the same part, but I am rolling out some part of my body that needs TLC!!!
I have also had years of bad posture and unnecessary tension from dance. I have started rolling my upper trapezius out all the way down my spine. It has literally changed my life! The stress I aquire from auditions and simply navigating through NYC everyday seems to start anew dailly. The Tune up balls simply begin by bringing awareness to parts of my body I didn’t know needed a little extra love and release all that superficial fascia. Thanks for the inspiration!
Wow, Ruffini endings!! Who knew!? I have certainly experienced the stress relief that comes from a good roll out on these magic balls, but I always attributed it to the release of muscular and connective tissue tension and perhaps my consciously slower and fuller breath cycles. Are the Ruffini endings only stimulated when it is skin on balls or is it equally effective through thin-snug fitting clothing?
I am impressed that you delved into another root of Tune Up ball rolling. I have never used any other balls (i.e. tennis, plain old rubber balls) for self massage. But I do notice a blissful sense of peace, calm, and restoration in my body: even after an aggressive roll on the balls (i.e. all that glut work we did today with the alpha ball in intensive #2 Training)! Ruffini endings in the superficial membranous fascia… I’ll have to remember that!
Thanks for the explanation of Ruffini endings. I feel so relaxed after a yoga therapy ball session. Great article!
As I just spent time looking for new verbs, creative language to describe movement and actions in yoga postures, I am grateful to have found this fascinating approach to describing the unique relaxation felt after rolling. I will deepen my research on the the role of the Ruffini endings to better describe their effect to my scientific minded students.
First of all I am definitely going to tell my students that they “knead” therapy balls in their lives (this gives me a chuckle). Rolling is still knew to me, but something that I want to begin to incorporate into my daily personal practice. I didn’t know about the Ruffini endings and that added knowledge makes me want to roll out even more! Thank you for that new information. Happy rolling!
It’s so cool to see how a simple tool can bring major relief. Experimenting with the balls for the first time on my upper back while lying down tonight I have to say the sensation was not always positive. Love seeing that this is the case for others as well, as to be honest I was a little discouraged. However, it seems like given the process of hydration, nerve stimulation and effect on the fascias that comes with regular use, I just have to make it habit even more so given my initial sensations.
Thank you for this post–a lot of students will often wonder why they need a special set of balls if their doctor or chiropractor tells them to just use tennis balls. The discussion on the ability to not only unwind the many layers of facia tissue while rolling with the YTU Therapy Balls but the fact their special rubbarized grip also stimulates a nerve ending that lies within your superficial fascia adds additional support to the credence of why they are superior to other “rolling” products. Thank you for explaining Ruffini endings and their role in down regulating the the nervous system as an additional benefit to using YTU Therapy balls.
I am always kneading my balls. I sleep with them, I play with them but most of all I give them all my pain and aches and they never fail me. I love all the kneading they do.
Nice word play! And I didn’t know about the Ruffini endings either, although it does explain why my eyes are at half mast for a little while after a good rolling session! The fact that I can directly control the pressure and location makes it even more effective than massage.
I didn’t know about Ruffini endings and it further explains why the Yoga Tune Up therapy balls help de-regulate the nervous system so much beyond wringing out the muscle tension. Fabulous article!
It is fascinating to me that what seems to be “superficial” is really a deeper story as is the case with the Ruffini nerve endings. I would like to reasearch more on this and now am inspired to use the YTU Therapy Balls, not only for the self-massage but also for the Grip and Grab relaxation response.
I haven’t heard of the ruffini endings in the fascia. I think I’m about to dive into another rabbit hole. Are there other ways to access the endings without soft tissue manipulation?
Alexandra share us her experience with the balls, she suffered from constant back pain and headaches. She found that she can release that stress with the YTU balls because with the balls she can access to ruffini endings which is a deeper fascia connected to the nervous system. To make we have to use the balls from tose to head.
Thank you for this tidbit of info about how the YTU balls effect change in the body! It’s interesting to hear a tangible reason for why they transport us into that down regulated state, other than just by releasing tense muscles. Like so many other parts of my yoga practice, I’ve found that rolling out is not just a treat that I come to once a week, like a massage, but something that I need daily or every other day to keep my body happy and open. Like you mention, when I miss a few days of rolling, I feel it distinctly, even if it takes me a moment or two to put my finger on what’s missing!
Thank you for the fascinating revelation of the Ruffini endings. I’d not heard of them! I’m beginning day two of the YTU Level 1 training, and woke up with familiar but increased pain in my right shoulder, and realize from your “tin can at 65 mph” that the tension of commuting a long, unfamiliar distance for the first time in a long while is the likely source. Fortunately, there will be plenty of rolling in the week, and, following the substantial amount of homework/research in the program, a chance to read beyond my Google search of the Ruffini endings (found out they’re also called “Bulbous Corpuscles”) and experience their effect on the nervous system.
Every YTU class that I have been in thoroughly enjoys a good “rolling out”! The power of the “Test/Retest” cue always provides positive results as student feel their bodies release and sink further into the floor. I will be sure to add the explanation of stimulating Ruffini endings to the list of benefits that rolling out can bring.
Thank for you describing so eloquently how the YTU therapy balls change how our bodies feel and how they directly stimulate the Ruffini endings. I woke up this morning feeling very achy…which I normally do not. When I read your article, I realized with the holidays I had not rolled on my balls. I am off to roll. Thanks.
It’s great to be able to put an explanation to why rolling feels so renewing, and also to the value of the specialized YTU balls.
I’ve experienced exactly the stress drain of neglecting myself, and the de-stressing of rolling regularly as you describe, and I’ve always thought it was kind of an intangible benefit of therapy ball work. Thanks for explaining the role of Ruffini endings!