Photo: Courtesy Of Yamuna.
I have a confession: I hate stretching. I’m usually so preoccupied with sweating that I tend to overlook this very important component of my workout routine. Somehow (thanks to genetics and luck, probably), I’ve managed to avoid any exercise-induced injuries. But, recently, my body has started to feel the wear and tear. We spend hours each week putting stress on our joints and muscles, whether it’s sprinting on a treadmill, sweating in a bootcamp class, or running up subway stairs.
Yamuna Zake, the visionary behind Yamuna Body Rolling, believes that in the very near future, classes focused entirely on stretching will hit gyms worldwide. She has long trusted the healing powers of yoga, specifically Hatha Yoga. A YBR class utilizes these principles as a form of deep-tissue self massage to release tension with a series of balls of different sizes and textures placed under the body. However, unlike most forms of stretching and massage that focus on the muscles, YBR has you concentrate on “bony landmarks” (such as the sit bones), which are the “origins” of major muscle groups. By rolling the ball over these bony landmarks in a specific way, you “release” and lengthen the tendon (the band of connective tissue between bone and muscle), which in turn releases and lengthens the muscle.
Photo: Courtesy Of Yamuna.
I was lucky enough to take a private Foot Fitness and YBR class with Patricia Powers, a Yamuna certifying instructor, at their serene and spacious flagship studio in the West Village.
When it comes to stretching, one of the most commonly neglected parts of our bodies is our feet. We stand on them all day, squish them into impossibly chic (and uncomfortable) high heels, and, as New Yorkers, rely on them as our primary mode of transportation. By leaning up against the wall and placing my feet on a prop called a Foot Waker (basically, a tennis-sized, rubber-spiked ball cut in half), we focused on strengthening my feet and toes.
The outer edges of flat feet tend to become weak from neglect. I have flat feet, so over time and with continued misuse, I am in danger of seriously damaging them, which will in turn affect the rest of my body. Patricia taught me some exercises to strengthen them and manually correct my walking without having to rely on orthotics, which can cost upwards of $500. I immediately noticed a difference in my posture. Even now, days after our class, I am extra conscious to use the sides of my feet. There is even a class that specifically teaches you how to walk comfortably in stilettos.
Next, we moved into 75-minutes of YBR. I started by lying down on a mat with one of the balls placed under my right sit bones. Most classes start here since it is exactly halfway through the upper and lower half of the body, and is the origin of some of the largest muscle groups (such as the quadriceps). By working one half of the body and then the other, using a few of the differently sized balls, I saw and felt the difference immediately. After my right side had been worked up and down, I sank much deeper into my mat. It was as if all the tensions and knots had been completely melted away. By the end, I felt much more limber and my body seemed to move more smoothly. You can purchase the Foot Wakers, balls, and DVDs to use at home, and with regular practice, you can reverse years of stress to your musculoskeletal system on your own.