If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen foam rollers around and have had no idea how to use them. Or you thought to yourself, “I don’t need a tool to help me stretch — I already do yoga!”
But using a foam roller is the perfect complement to your yoga practice, not to mention a lifesaver for massaging sore muscles after workouts like running or cross-training. Plus, you can even incorporate them into your regular workouts!
Here are 12 areas of the body and ways that you can use your foam roller to relieve muscle tension, correct muscle imbalances, increase range of motion, and prevent injuries. The best part is that just 10 minutes a day can be sufficient to feel a big change.
1. THIGHS (FRONT)
For a sweet quadricep release, get into Upward-Facing Dog and position the foam roller under your thighs with your toes on the floor. Press your hands into the floor and shift your body forward and backward, letting the foam roller massage your quads.
2. THIGHS AND CALVES (BACK)
If you’ve been working your hamstrings or calves lately, you’ll need this release. Position the roller under the back of your thighs or calves, then straighten your leg, keeping your heel off the floor. Press your hands into the floor and slightly raise your buttocks (Reverse Plank). Shift your body forward and backward, letting the foam roller massage your thighs or calves.
3. THIGH (SIDE)
Need to release tension in your IT band? Position the foam roller under the outside of one of your thighs, straighten your leg, and point your toes. Press your hands into the floor and shift your body forward and backward while rolling the roller along the side of your upper leg. Feel the sweet release, then switch sides.
4. UPPER BACK
Place the foam roller under your upper back, bend your legs and straighten your arms. Press your feet and hands into the ground and lift your buttocks off the floor, coming up into Bridge Pose. Shift your body forward and backward while the roller massages your upper back.
5. LOWER BACK
Position the foam roller under your lower back and bend your arms and legs. Press your feet and elbows into the ground and raise your buttocks off the ground. Shift your body forward and backward while rolling the roller along your lower back.
To release tension in the glutes, place the roller under your buttocks. Bend your legs, placing your feet flat on the floor. Shift your body forward and backward while rolling the roller across your buttocks.
After a long run — or a day spent wearing uncomfortable shoes — your feet could use a nice massage. Stand with your foam roller under the arch of one foot. Gently apply pressure to the arch by leaning your weight forward and slowly rolling your foot back and forth over the roller. For increased pressure, hold onto something sturdy for balance. You can also find foam rollers specifically made for your tootsies, like this Restore Hot & Cold Foot Roller.
Use the foam roller to work your triceps. Lay on your side and place the foam roller under your armpit, stretching your arm overhead, parallel to your body. Roll upward, toward the armpit, pausing at any tender spots. Roll back down and repeat. Switch sides.
Start by laying face-down on a yoga mat with the foam roller under the left side of your chest. Roll across your left pec and back, spending additional time on any sore spots you encounter.
10. HIP FLEXOR
Lay on your stomach and place the roller under one hip, spreading your legs outward. Start at your hip and work down to the knee. If you find a tender spot, push down and hold, or roll quickly back and forth over the tender spot. Make sure to switch sides after about a minute.
11. THORACIC SPINE
Lay face-up on the floor with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Center the foam roller beneath your shoulder blades or mid-back so that it is perpendicular to your body, forming a capital T. Extend your arms out from your shoulders at a 45-degree angle. Reach arms back toward the floor and then up again, keeping your sacrum planted on the ground.
Place the foam roller on the ground and lay on your back with your neck against the roller. The roller should be perpendicular to your body, forming a capital T. Place your hands on your hips. Roll slowly sideways, until the foam roller rolls over the neck muscles where the sore trigger points are.