When practicing self-care, whether you are doing yoga or myofascial stretching, it is essential to use the right tools. I only recommend products that I use myself and in my classes and workshops.
While stretching and exercising without devices is possible, adding props and tools can significantly increase your safety and effectiveness. Props or tools can help people new to this method of stretching ease safely into their own practice.
The links below are all to amazon.com. I am a user of amazon.com and am also an affiliate. So, if you choose to buy the products by clicking on the pictures below, it will support my business, and I appreciate that greatly!
Some of My Favorite Tools
As someone who uses my arms to do intense work many times daily, it is critical I keep them healthy. I use my therapy balls most of the time (scroll down to find them) but these tools help get at some hard-to-reach areas and help keep me feeling great.
Resistance bands can be a great way to get started with building mobility and strength.
More Great Tools
- Myofascial Self-Care eBook
- Warming Tool
- Therapy Balls
- Tools for the Neck
- Cushions and Mats
- Hanging Bar
- Gift Certificates
My eBook will get you started applying the myofascial principles to your self-care. The book is based on my hugely successful workshop and will guide you through all the releases we do there plus many more. You’ll need a set of therapy balls to get the most out of the book. You’ll find the balls in the link immediately below. Do NOT use hard balls such as Lacross balls. You will also want the set in the bag. I use them in and out of the bag. You will love these techniques!
Did you know ice should only be used during the initial injury? Using ice is like pressing pause on the healing process. Only use cold if you are in a lot of pain and that is all that helps you cope. Even then, try to alternate with warmth.
Using warmth expands the tissues and promotes fluid flow which is what is needed to heal. I prefer a pad you can warm up and slowly cools so you don’t risk falling asleep and leaving an electric pad on too long.
The best therapy balls are dense but have some give when you press into them. They also have a “sticky” surface instead of slippery, so they do not easily slip away from you when you lean into them. Using balls that are too hard is not safe for many people and can damage tissues. Balls that are too soft, such as tennis balls, are not as effective and more difficult to use. It is also best to find a set of therapy balls that come in a pair and include a bag or pouch so they can be used together or individually. The pouch allows more options in your stretching routine.
The Acupoint ball is my personal favorite and they’re the size and density I use in my myofascial stretching workshop. It is great for most people, especially women, as they are slightly smaller than other therapy balls (about 2.5 inches). A smaller ball easily gets in between muscles to reach deeper into the fascial system.
The ActiveProZone therapy ball is also in my toolkit. I recommend this set for larger people. They are slightly larger (2.75 inches), but still come in set with a mesh bag for using together or individually.
If you really want to get into rolling, I love this set and keep it handy at home. It provides many different sizes of therapy balls. The smaller sizes are great for using with the feet, hands, arms, and along the edges of the shoulder blades. It also includes a larger, softer ball which is great for very tender areas. The downside of this set is that there are not two balls of the same size to use together.
This ball is much larger and softer and is a great starter ball if your tissues are very sensitive. If you are using them for your low back, you may want two.
Cupping is a form of therapy you can receive from a professional. Many types of body workers and rehabilitation professionals use cups to mobilize tissues and the fluids underneath. You can also do this on your own. Cups are available to purchase online. I strongly recommend you get advice from a pro before you try it on your own.
A yoga strap is a wonderful adjunct to your yoga practice or your myofascial stretching routine especially for beginners. My favorite yoga strap below has elastic loops you can slip your hands through to decrease the amount of grip needed to hold the strap. The downside of this strap is that you can bind it into a circle for some yoga poses. The strap on the right allows for this and comes in a variety of lengths. The gait belt below allows for some great binding opportunities to improve breathing and expand the ribs.
If you are purchasing blocks to use with your therapy balls, it is a great idea to have a set with two different sizes of blocks. This provides options with how far you can lift or tilt your body areas to angle into the therapy balls. This link offers a 3-inch and a 4-inch wide block.
If you are purchasing blocks to support you as you ease into a yoga practice, I recommend a wider 4-inch set of blocks. This width offers more stability and comfort for your hands as you lean into them. If you want an even greater sense of stability with your blocks, choose a cork option. They are heavier, but still offer some give when leaning into them. I love my cork blocks. They are pricier but when I’m doing a lot of sun salutations, they are helpful to provide a little extra room and stability with pulling my legs through from down dog. This brand offers both foam (in lots of pretty colors) and cork options in a 3 or 4-inch block set at a reasonable price.
One of my most used props in my toolkit is the half-roll. The calf stretch is hands down, that most important stretch you can do for keeping your fascial system relaxed and open. While you can use a rolled yoga mat or a book to do the calf stretch, having a half-roll is convenient and can be used for many other stretches or balance exercises. It also looks nice if you want to use it at your standing work-station (which I highly recommend). I keep one at work and one at home. I often use it while in the kitchen prepping supper.
I’m generally not a fan of foam rollers and almost never recommend them to my clients or use them in my workshops. However, many people do use them. If you do roll, I recommend you use a roller with texture. Smooth rollers may press into the tissues and loosen tight areas but they smash everything else in the process. I recommend you roll to locate tight spots then press and hold to release them. A roller with texture gets in between the tissues and provides points of pressure deeper than a smooth roller can.
This hand-held single ball roller is excellent for when you don’t have time to get down on the floor and use a therapy ball. Using it in the car or at work is great. It is also an easy way to help out a loved one when they ask you to rub their shoulders. It feels great, and they make wonderful gifts.
When you need to get in a little deeper a roller with two handles and smaller balls can really do the trick. This is pricey but by far the best hand held roller. Great to use when a loved one asks for some TLC.
This tool is great if you are really into self-care and use your arms heavily. If your arms get tight and sore, this tool allows you to achieve just the right pressure to release your fascia and eliminate tension. It can also be used effectively in other areas of the body. It comes with an easy to understand instruction manual.
The Mobility Wall is a tool I really like for managing my upper shoulder and neck tension and pain. This is a very hard to reach area and this tool makes it easy. As an occupational therapist and Barnes myofascial release practitioner for 30 years, I love finding tools that help my clients treat themselves and feel their best. I have been using the Mobility Wall myself for several months and really like it so I’m sharing my thought with you. Mobility Wall has three styles. I’m reviewing the Basic Mobility Wall which meets my needs, and briefly discuss the others. You can find them on Amazon here: Basic Mobility Wall: https://amzn.to/3bMSYNx Basic Mobility Wall plus 3 additional attachments: https://amzn.to/3ODJaUF Pro Mobility Wall: https://amzn.to/3yf3ZyO
Tools for the Neck
Many of us have pain and tension in our necks periodically. Getting into those muscles is tricky. Massaging and lengthening them is helpful and feels good. I own and use the following two products when my neck needs some TLC.
The Cranio Cradle can also be used in the upper and low back area. It is soft and flexible, but sturdy enough to support the weight of your body. You can also change the angles for your best stretch.
This neck hammock is easy to set up and provides a very gentle stretch. Using a hammock can help train your neck to relax. To up the effectiveness while in the hammock, try meditating.
If you need some gentle compression on your neck muscles and fascia, this tool makes it very easy to reach the neck area with little effort. It can also be used on other areas of the body such as the calves and knees.
The Theracane tool is great for reaching the neck and top of the shoulders without the help of others. You can also reach your back and many other areas of the body with this tool. If getting on the floor is not an option for you, this tool can really help you out.
I’ve had many clients with low back pain and a habit of tucking their tailbone. This tool gently helps to stretch and reshape the low back curve. I like this version because it is adjustable and it has an open space in the center for the spine. It also comes with two bonus tools!
Cushions can help support and protect the body while doing a variety of poses in yoga. A knee cushion makes poses on the knees more comfortable. It can also double as a seat cushion.
A seat cushion is helpful to people with tight backs or hamstrings. This makes any seated position more comfortable and achievable.
A yoga mat is very helpful to prevent slipping during poses and to provide a comfortable surface to stand or sit on during a yoga practice.
I often teach family members how to work on each other. Having a treatment table can make the experience much more pleasant and effective. A treatment table can also be very helpful if you have a lot of trouble getting up and down from the floor. Adjusting the table to knee height helps you get up and down with ease so you are more likely to complete your stretching program. A recent client purchased this table for them and their family and is very pleased with how it has improved their ability to work on each other.