This article is part of a series on how to maximize the benefits of massage therapy. Read the rest of the series here

Six years ago this month, I began rehab from a complicated knee surgery (after three months spent in a boot, on crutches, and hobbling asymmetrically). After less than ideal progression and healing, a friend advised me to “get a good massage”.

Maximize your Massage with Yoga Tune UpAt the time, I understood massage as a purely recreational experience- something done for enjoyment and relaxation, like a spa treatment. Skeptical how this would help my knee or the other aches and pains my injury and surgery caused, I asked my friend “why?” He went on to explain that there are certain kinds of massage, such as deep tissue work, that are therapeutic for the body and its soft tissues (like muscles and connective tissue).

“It will help you move better. It might hurt though,” he warned.

Intrigued, and willing to try nearly anything to help my recovery, I found a local massage therapist and booked an appointment for a deep tissue massage. I went in ready to “bring on the pain.”

To my surprise, it wasn’t all that painful, mostly just somewhat uncomfortable, but also relaxing in a way I hadn’t felt before. It wasn’t relaxing mentally or energetically as much as it was relaxing for my tight and achy muscles. For the first time in as long as I could remember (probably since I began playing competitive sports), my constantly tense legs, back, and shoulders felt more at ease.

Unfortunately, this relief didn’t last all that long. After a few weeks of crutching around and slouching at my desk, my tension returned. I wanted another massage, but couldn’t afford it, and unaware of any “at-home massage”, I went untreated. Later, I would learn how important is it to maintain the healthy, supple condition of muscles and connective tissue that massage can promote before it becomes a serious problem by staying ahead of the pain.

Fast forward 6 years, and I now treat myself to at-home massages with Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls nearly every day, in addition to a professional massage every few weeks or months (depending on my budget and how my body has been feeling). As a former athlete with a history of chronic and acute injuries, I have developed repetitive pain, “tight” muscles, myofascial adhesions, achy joints, and limitations to the range of motion in many of my joints.

Without a well-defined plan for how to incorporate massage into my rehabilitation (unfortunately, my doctors and physical therapists never mentioned massage or bodywork), my journey to where I am today has involved self-experimentation and a lot of trial and error.

I’ve experimented with different types of self-massage (foam rollers, lacrosse balls, YTU Therapy balls, etc) and different types of professional bodywork and massage therapy treatments (“deep tissue” massage, Shiatsu and Thai massage, Active Release Therapy (ART), and a Rolfing Structural Integration 10-series), all with the intention of increasing my functional mobility and reducing pain.

Years later, I have come to deeply appreciate the synergy between massaging myself on a regular basis and investing in a professional massage for the times I need some outside help. This allows me to do over 90% of my soft-tissue care on my own, which means it’s on my time, at my convenience, and not on my dime.

After much exploration, I have found a few effective strategies for how to best combine self-massage with professional massages in order to ease my nagging pains, increase mobility, and restore suppleness to my muscles, without spending a fortune. Come back later this week to read my insights and suggestions on how to do it!

Enjoyed this article? Read Do This for Your Neck Pain Now
Max Bayuk

As a competitive high school athlete, Max developed several chronic over-use injuries that left him on the sidelines for his senior year. His journey of fixing these injuries over the past 6 years has taught him the value in integrating one's movement practice -- be it sports, yoga, or any other kind of exercise -- with body work. He has developed a passion for self-myofascial release and its therapeutic effects, especially in combination with strategic stretching, correct posture, and a balanced lifestyle. Max completed his 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training through YogaWorks while at school at UC Santa Barbara in spring 2013, and is now combining his athletic background with his knowledge of yoga, Yoga Tune Up®, and embodied anatomy.

Leave a Reply

50 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
49 Comment authors
shelley krug

my experience has been that the brain has to accept the relaxation which takes more than tissue manipulation

Morgan Balavage

Yesss, it is so important for maintenance between bodywork sessions! Would that we all could afford weekly massages to undo the adventures we put our bodies through.


Is there a video somewhere of a short whole body self massage using the balls?

Jane Thibodeau

This is exactly why I love my Tune Up balls! It’s one of the most affordable and accessible ways to treat and prevent injuries, chronic pain and tension in the body. Thanks for sharing your story – it’s a great reminder why I should be rolling on a regular basis.


Thanks Max for telling your story as to how you came into YTU. I am a veteran and teach these classes specifically to other veterans. I come from a mental health background and I have often been concerned that maybe my focus is too much on the balls on not enough on the yoga aspect of things (all students are disabled and injured). I usually have a certified yoga instructor teach a very basic class to help us stretch and wake the body up. After reading your post, I now feel confident and ok to focus solely on the balls… Read more »

Gustavo Torres Santiago

Great article and I also share injuries, and a body that has been used without being taken care of and rejuvenated. I too agree that everyday we should make time to heal our bodies from this practice so that we can live, work, and play better. Thank you for your article.


I love going to get a massage and would often pop into my local massage place for a quick neck and shoulder chair massage. Since using the therapy balls I haven’t done that as often as I can give myself some qick relief.
I am curious to know about some ytb techniques that can enhance a professional massage, so I can get more out of it.
I’m looking forward to reading your next post.


Thank you for highlighting the possibility of using Yoga Tune Up methods to increase the length of time between massages (and thereby reduce the cost) while still maintaining the benefits. There is still an investment of time and money at the outset to acquire the equipment and knowledge to implement the YTU method well, but it’s certainly cheaper and more convenient in the long run.


I just started my Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 training and so excited. As a professional performer/ showgirl, I totally agree the importance of self care. It really works and saves money! Thank you for sharing.


For those with tight budgets YTU balls are a Godsend! It is also empowering knowing that you can self-massage many muscles.


I am currently taking Level 1 YTU training and am really looking forward to helping my massage clients help themselves between sessions! inspiring post. Thank you!

Tatjana Brandl

Hi Max,
as you said, it is a constant journey through the whole body. For me it feels like if I rolle one part after the other during one week or more, I definately need to start after all that time at the beginning again. So sometimes it is like a never ending rolling story. But if I roll with the flow, it feels better and better …. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Tatjana

Jeanette Johnsson

Thanks for sharing your experience. I love how the therapy balls can be such a vital self-care and self-love tool.

Robert Ouellet

Thanks for sharing, i almost recognized me, too much bicycle race or ski but some time my body make some strange noise! But with your world you touch me to be more relax on myself. I will try some massage in alternance with my new Yoga Tune Up ball…Je suis confiant positivement du changement annoncé! Merci encore…

Stéphanie Marchand

You make me feel like I really need to roll my back at the moment. The relief, the satisfaction that I feel on my upper back when I roll my sacrum is BIG. And they are so “far” away one from another… but now you understand that every muscles, nerves, tissus are connected, and when you take the time to be conscious and feel it in your body, and you feel the satisfaction every time you become addict!! Thanks for sharing!

Nina Watson

Thanks for sharing your story! It is helping me to start to use the YTU balls on a regular basis, especially since I have a shoulder injury!


This is a great article (I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series!). Professional massage has helped me to heal from past injuries, but the rolling I do with the YTU therapy balls in between professional massages keeps me healthy now.


I often refer my physical therapy patients to a massage therapist so help collaborate in treating the movement dysfunction. I could not agree more with this article in terms of the importance of self-managing your own soft tissue and heading to a professional RMT for the kind of massage that works right for you. I will definitely be taking a read of your next blog post: prepare for your massage with yoga tune-up!


As an RMT, I applaud you for your self-care routine. I encourage my clients to try self-massage methods to maintain the improvements we make while they are on the table. After experiencing YTU at the Toronto Yoga Conference 4 years ago, I knew I would be adding this modality to my own self-care routine and sharing it with my patients as well. When questioned as to why someone should do their ‘homework’, I liken it to going to the gym once a month and expecting to look like Hugh Jackman in Wolverine…probably not a reasonable outcome. I joke that I… Read more »

Lyndsey Hill

I have been down a similar massage modality path as you have been to help with my overuse injuries. I have also found that having a combination of regular monthly massage treatments with a therapist as well as performing my own self massage has been quite effective in relieving my various aches and pains. Injury recovery can be a long process but having the knowledge and tools to actively take part in the process, gave me a seance of accountability. It was and continues to be my responsibility to help myself function to my own optimal level.

Elaine Miller

Great insight. As a massage therapists I encourage my clients to follow up with some form of self care , be it postural exercises, rest or the help of tune-up balls to help maintain what we accomplished together.


I have just started using and plan to continue using the yoga tune up therapy balls on a regular basis as part of my self care program. I found a difference right away after using the YTU therapy balls on my shoulders and back…thank you for sharing your experience.


I have been going to a various types of therapies over the past 30 years to treat injuries. I found deep tissue massage to be the best therapy for me over all. Finding Yoga Tune Up balls was a relief on various levels such as reducing the deep tissues massage treatments, more cost effective and availability . As well, I found Yoga Tune Up to be more effective on some areas of my body than the deep tissue massage.


I’ve just started working with the YTU therapy balls and am so pleased with the relief they bring to areas like shoulders and lower back. I have also gone to a massage therapist who is scaling back her hours as she has been experiencing hand and arm pain. I’m going to take the therapy balls to her and see if she can use them for her own pain relief, or maybe incorporate them as a tool when she is giving massages to lessen the stress on her hands.


Great article, I am also an RMT, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to continue with your own self-care at home whether for maintenance or continued improvement. I think that the Yoga Tune Up balls are excellent for achieving this. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences.


Great start for me to learn about self massage! I can relate to many things in this article! I love to have a massage therapist work on me but the cost makes it prohibitive. I love the idea of learning how and when to incorporate the balls versus heading out for a massage.

Katy Forline

Thank you for emphasizing the need for both. I think in addition to the things you mentioned, one of the great things about using the YTU balls and Roll Model techniques is that we are in complete control of the amount pressure. This is also a great gift to people who are afraid to trust even a qualified therapist. Being a massage therapist for over 30 years I’ve learned that there are benefits to both being able to just receive passively and also being able to do work on oneself. Also it is amazing how a really brief rolling has… Read more »

Kimberly Vickery

As a massage therapist, I love hearing how people perform self care! I like that you use a combination of methodologies to keep yourself healthy. Thank you for sharing your story.

Miri Greenberg

enjoyed reading another great article Max. love all the useful information you give here.


Merci Max pour ce partage. Nous oublions souvent à quel point nous avons du pouvoir sur notre santé et nous remettons ce pouvoir dans les mains des professionnels. Certes, l’auto-massage avec la balle Yoga Tunt up ne remplacera pas le rôle de professionnels dans certains cas, mais travailler en prévention et à l’écoute de son corps est un excellent complément. Surtout, cela nous redonne notre pouvoir de ”self healing”.


Thank for sharing your experience Max! Your tell us the importance of the “Self-Care”. Most of the people only when their injured start to think what they should do to recover their well -Being.
Others do profesional massages on their bodies, and that’s find, but as soon as we realize that you are the own driver of your body it’s important that you massage your body on regular basis to give maintainance to it, after all, your body is your vehicle to experience life and you don’t want to live in pain.

Josiane O'Rourke

Thank you for sharing! With my own experiences, I have become to realize that it is essential for me to be involved in my own health. Why would I always rely on doctors, physios and massage therapists when I can do a big part of the work on my own (especially when it comes to prevention!) The YTU allows us to shed light on those blind spots of ours and come up with a greater health plan for ourselves, involving specialists or not! Awareness is the key.

Jo Harvey

It’s all about taking some initiative to give ourselves a little love and self care from the inside out. This was a great read as I have only recently been introduced to the YTU balls and am loving the difference they are making with my everyday movement and my work as a yoga teacher.


it’s amazing how little it takes to help heal the body 🙂 just a little self-love… and time. Keep feeling better.

Lena Rogers

Great to hear positive outcomes from the use of the tune-up balls and also a reminder that our bodies are fully equipped to heal themselves. I have been doing bodywork for several years, and was recently introduced the to yoga tune-up balls. I love them! I don’t find the time for traditional massage and I find using the balls with intuition on my own body does a better job at targeting the areas that currently need release. I’m happy to have a RMT as well, but the balls allow me to massage anytime!

Bernie Cook

I am right there with you Max! I have been in and out of physical therapy (acupuncture, reflexology, massage, chiropractor, rolfing, etc) and have discovered that the best person to heal me….is me. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but the foam roller and therapy balls (and monthly massages) are incorporated into my routine.

Vickie Chartrand

C’est un très bon article sur les massages et l’auto-massage. Pour ma part, j’aime aussi combiner les massages avec un professionnel de temps à autre et utiliser les balles Tune up de facon régulière pour me masser. Les balles ont été une découverte meeveilleuse et surtout économique pour moi :).


Hi Max!
Thanks for sharing your story. Pain is not fun, but it sounds like you have a good grip on how to manage it with all of your training.
Can’t wait to read your next blog.

Donna Burch

I am so looking forward to the benefits of YTU ball massage and hands on massage following a roll out.
As an aquatics professional and yoga teacher, I am dismayed at what tight shoulders I have and am looking forward to recreating my body. Thank you for sharing.


Thank you! I am starting out a Yoga Tune Up® teacher in a new city. Trying to get the message about self massage and of course Yoga Tune Up®out there! I hope to use this article as a reference to my future employers! Roll on!

Eva Jedlovsky

I came to the same conclusions once I started doing Yoga Tune Up classes at out local gym. I used to see my massage therapist once every 2 to 3 month and it was never the relaxing type. But ever since the discovery of the Yoga Tune Up balls my need to go for a massage decreased yet the body feels much better. I have been rolling at home myself every time tightness comes up and introduced the balls to all my friends and family.


Thanks for sharing. I too have found a ton of empowering being able to massage myself with the YTU balls and other tools – and yes, totally cuts down on costs!


I really enjoyed this post. Like you and many others I’m sure, I also thought for a long time that massage was purely for relaxation, more of a luxury someone would indulge in on vacation. I’ve since learned how beneficial massage can really be, but there still lies the problem of affordability. Body rolling now allows us to practice self care and offers us the benefits of massage affordably.


You raise and excellent point about not being able to afford massages. This is so true for so many. YTU is such a great way to allow people to take whatever time they have to do self care in between those costly, yet so lovely, massages.


I see a therapeutic massage therapist once a month which, thankfully, in our area is not expensive and I use the YTU balls in between. While I believe a good Physical Therapist is worth their weight in gold as some issues/injuries need an evaluation and a plan, it has been incredibly difficult to find one in our area and they are very expensive even with insurance. It’s important to not give up and utilize the tools that are available to you.


I am definitely interested in your insights on exactly what techniques helped you the most; I hope another email alert will go out when you update the blog. Thank you!

Michelle Pitman

This was a great read! I too am learning, through reading the YTU training and resources, the gift of regular self-massage that is affordable, more regular and time efficient. I still go to my RMT on occasion, but you’re right, the benefits of outside help fades. How empowering it is to know I can work through my aches and pains, bring more ease into my body, with self massage techniques.

Karen Stillman

Thank you for describing your experience. We all have different ones. It is also usually a different combination that works for individuals. We do need to remember that not all individuals are created equally, both from an injury perspective, and the professional help you can get from a variety of sources. It does requires research or curiosity on our part, to achieve success. And a dose of patience can go a long way. Looking forward to reading the next part.

Wendy Melville

I wish I had know about Tune Up balls well before I did. I have fibromyalgia, the cost of my massage, physio and accupunture visits were insane in a month. Tune Up has greatly reduced the visits pain and anxiety levels. It has been a big step in my recovery.

Kayla Lee

Great article about how you have become empowered to take care of your tissues yourself, while not completely neglecting outside care. I am the type of a person who likes a well defined plan, just rolling on the balls and flipping through the Roll Model isn’t how I typically like to learn… but your article has reminded me to tap into curiosity, to be open to trial and error and to trust that I, myself know how to take care of my body.