Are you looking for a natural way to reduce stress and tension, improve your posture, and increase flexibility? If so, yoga massage balls may be just what you need. These small but mighty spheres are becoming increasingly popular among yogis of all levels. Not only do they provide an easy way to work out tight muscles without the help of a massage therapist or chiropractor – they can also help with relaxation and mindfulness practices. The best part is that these little tools are incredibly versatile – no matter where you are in your fitness journey, there’s likely something yoga massage balls can offer. Ready to find out more about this amazing tool? Keep reading!
What Are Yoga Massage Balls?
Yoga massage balls are small, round balls that can be used to massage the body while performing yoga poses. They were popularized by Yoga Tune Up—a method developed by Jill Miller, a yoga and strength coach (1).
Yoga Tune Up (YTU) is essentially a combination of yoga and self-massage, combining postures with massage techniques to restore the body’s natural balance. The idea is that by using massage balls during yoga poses, you can target specific areas of the body that need release. The goal is to increase mobility and reduce muscular pain.
Mastering the 3 P’s of this fitness therapy format can be helpful in understanding why yoga massage balls are important, how to use them, and which benefits to expect from the practice.
The 3 P’s Of Yoga Massage Ball Therapy
YTU has a three-pronged approach:
This answers the “what” question of using massage balls. What should you use yoga balls for? When performing this fitness therapy, you’re looking to eliminate pain. That’s your main goal, but isn’t the only benefit you stand to gain (more on the benefits of using yoga balls later).
The pain you’re targeting isn’t only the obvious, throbbing kind that may signal a more serious injury. You’re also targeting aches and pains, the kind that signal your muscles are overworked or underused. You’re looking for blind spots that can lead to future injuries.
Some basic anatomical knowledge might help here. It’s important to understand where your body is tight and identify the muscles that may be causing it. The balls can then be used to target these areas and apply pressure for relaxation (6).
The next “P” of YTU is posture. This answers both the ” how and why” of using massage balls. Posture is an important part of a healthy body and can be improved through yoga (8).
While using yoga massage balls, you can target by focusing on areas that need to be strengthened or loosened. This is especially beneficial for those who have spent long hours hunched over a computer or desk and from rounded shoulders and neck pain.
The how is important here. You can hold the balls in place and move to target muscles or use them as a tool during yoga poses. For example, you can hold onto a ball while doing cobra pose to target the upper back and shoulders. There are many more postures for using massage balls, and we’ll also give you more details on that later.
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The last part of the YTU system is performance. This is more about the most significant benefit you stand to gain from regularly using massage balls as part of your YTU routine. Also, it answers the “why” of using massage balls.
By improving posture and eliminating muscular pain, you will improve your overall performance during physical activities such as yoga, running, and even weight lifting. You can use massage balls to prepare your body for exercise, as well as to cool your muscles down afterwards.
The performance aspect of using massage balls isn’t limited to exercise. Your daily life will also benefit from this practice—keeping up with your kids, hauling groceries, and even going to work. All of these activities will be easier when your muscles are relaxed and have been freed from any pain or tension.
7 Benefits Of Using Yoga Massage Balls
Let’s recap and give you a few more reasons why you need these rubber tools. Using massage balls as part of your YTU routine will provide a variety of benefits, such as:
1. Improve Proprioception
Proprioception, also referred to as body sense, is a critical piece of information the brain needs in order to coordinate movement. You’re able to sense where your body is in space and how it’s moving.
This is important because with yoga, it’s all about body awareness and precision. Each pose needs to be performed with proper alignment and body awareness. Over time, this translates to better coordination and better control of your movements in day-to-day life.
When using massage balls, the pressure of the ball helps to improve your body’s proprioception by stimulating receptors in your skin and muscles (7). Furthermore, by improving your muscle memory, massage balls can help with the coordination needed in yoga poses.
2. Improve Interoception
A lesser-known topic, interoception is the body’s ability to sense and respond to internal signals. This includes sensations like hunger, thirst, and fullness. This type of physiological listening is important for not only yoga but also life in general.
After all, who isn’t guilty of overeating or having a little too much wine every now and then? The mindfulness that yoga encourages can help you to better understand your body and its needs (5).And believe it or not, massage balls have the power to further improve interoception.
By applying pressure to different parts of the body, you can start to identify and understand subtle changes within your body on a deeper level.
The pressure of massage balls on the body’s fascia helps to ‘wake up’ the interoceptive pathways. When done regularly, this translates to a better ability to listen and respond to your body’s internal signals.
3. Improve Motor Control
Yoga is all about creating strength, stability, and balance. Motor control is a key component that’s necessary to perform the poses correctly. By using massage balls in your practice, you can gain an edge in this department as well (3).
Slow, controlled movements using massage balls helps to strengthen tiny movements, which can help you perform poses with more precision and control.
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4. Pain Management
Body parts that are overused, underused, or not used at all can become tight and cause pain. What seems like a minor issue can end up causing more severe issues if it’s not addressed.
Think of it this way: if one part of the body isn’t operating properly, then the rest of the body is forced to work harder and compensate.The pressure of massage balls can help the tense and tight areas to relax, allowing you to move properly without pain or discomfort (6). This can help to reduce the issue before it becomes worse.
Some common places to target with massage balls are the neck, shoulders, lower back, and hips. You may resolve issues like chronic tension, headaches, and tightness.
5. Enhanced Mobility
When your muscles are tight and rigid, it can be hard to move freely. Yoga massage balls help to loosen the muscles and fascia, allowing for better mobility of your joints (9). Increased mobility can help with performance and reduces the risk of injuries.
6. Enhanced Relaxation
Your body has several pressure points that are linked with feelings of relaxation. The most well-known pressure points are in the head and neck areas. Applying pressure to these points with massage balls can help you to relax deeply and provide a sense of calm.
There’s actually a scientific explanation behind this: the pressure stimulates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for activating your body’s relaxation responses (10). Also, the massage balls can help release endorphins, which are your body’s natural feel-good hormones (2).
The calming effects of using massage balls can be further enhanced by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on the sensations that you’re feeling.
7. Improved Quality Of Life
The combined effects of these benefits are what ultimately results in an improved quality of life (4). When you’re pain-free, relaxed, and have improved mobility, you’re able to enjoy life more. You can move freely and participate in activities with ease. You’re more likely to sleep better and less likely to give in to unhealthy behaviors.
Buying Yoga Massage Balls—What Should You Look For?
When you’re shopping for yoga massage balls, you’ll find that there are several options. Follow these guidelines to help you make an informed decision:
Massage Ball Material, Size, And Density
The most common materials used for massage balls are rubber, plastic, and foam. Each material offers its own benefits. Rubber is more durable and offers more control, while plastic and foam are more comfortable on the skin.
Size-wise, massage balls come in various sizes and densities. If you’re a beginner, go with something small and soft. If you have specific areas that need more pressure, choose a larger ball or one with a higher density.
Ergonomics refers to the design of a product and how it affects your body. When buying massage balls, look for ones that are easy to hold and grip for extended periods of time. Some balls are filled with gel or liquid, while others are hollow and can be filled with things like rice to make them more comfortable.
The advantage of a gel-filled ball is that it molds to the shape of your body and can provide deeper pressure. Whereas the hollow balls can be filled with various things to customize the pressure.
Area Of Use
Different balls may be better suited for certain areas of the body. For example, a larger ball may be better for larger muscles like the glutes and quads, while a smaller ball may work better for areas like the neck, shoulders, and feet.
Ideally, you should choose a few different types of massage balls to get the most out of your practice. If you can only afford one, go with a rubber ball that’s small and soft.
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How To Use Yoga Massage Balls
Follow this general guideline on how to use your massage balls:
- Start by warming up the area that you’re targeting. You can do this by performing simple stretches or using a foam roller.
- Place the massage ball on the area that you’re targeting. Apply as much pressure as you’d like, but be sure to start off slow.
- Gently roll the massage ball over the area for about 10-15 seconds.
- Take a break and then repeat the process as needed.
- When you’re finished, stretch the area that you’ve been targeting to help restore normal range of motion.
When using massage balls, avoid “spotting.” Spotting occurs when you apply too much pressure in a single spot. This can cause excessive tension and damage to the muscles and soft tissue. Instead, focus on rolling the ball over the entire area that you’re targeting.
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The Bottom Line
Using yoga massage balls can be an effective way to help reduce pain and tension, increase mobility and flexibility, and improve overall quality of life. When shopping for massage balls, consider the material, size, density, ergonomics, and area of use.
Once you’ve got the right massage ball for your needs, follow these general guidelines on how to use it. With regular use, you’ll be able to experience the benefits of massage ball therapy.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- About Yoga Tune Up (2023, tuneupfitness.com)
- Biochemistry, Endorphin (2022, nih.gov)
- Effect of Yoga practice on reducing cognitive-motor interference for improving dynamic balance control in healthy adults (2017, nih.gov)
- Health-Related Quality of Life Outcomes With Regular Yoga and Heartfulness Meditation Practice: Results From a Multinational, Cross-sectional Study (2022, nih.gov)
- Mindfulness, Interoception, and the Body: A Contemporary Perspective (2019, nih.gov)
- Relaxation techniques as an intervention for chronic pain: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (2021, nih.gov)
- Yoga meditation (YoMed) and its effect on proprioception and balance function in elders who have fallen: A randomized control study (2018, nih.gov)
- Yoga for better posture (n.d., piedmont.org)
- Yoga to prevent mobility limitations in older adults: feasibility of a randomized controlled trial (2018, nih.gov)
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation (2014, nih.gov)