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 it is possible to stretch and exercise without any devices, 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 a 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!
Not sure what you need or if it will be right for you? Schedule a Myofascial Stretching Appointment and I will help you decide which items will help you most. Then I will instruct you in the safe use of the equipment so you can try before you buy. Watch my short video below to get more familiar with the items I recommend.
There are a variety of options within each category below. Clink on the picture of the products to follow the link to Amazon.com. You may need to disable your pop-up blocker or ad-blocker extensions if you cannot see the pictures of the products.
The best therapy balls are dense, but have some give when you press into them. They also have a “sticky” opposed to a slippery surface, 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 includes a bag or pouch so they can be used together or individually. This allows more options in your stretching routine.
The Acupoint ball is my personal favorite and 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.
Yoga blocks are essential for someone just starting yoga. Blocks allow you to ease into poses and support you when you can’t quite reach the floor or need extra space when moving through many poses. Blocks can also dramatically increase the effectiveness of your myofascial stretching practice when using the therapy balls. Yoga blocks come in different sizes and densities. Depending on your intention for use and your experience, you may choose different blocks.
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 is ofter more stability and comfortable 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.
A yoga strap is a wonderful adjunct to your yoga practice or your myofascial stretching routine. Yoga beginners who are just diving into improving their flexibility appreciate the extra reach they get from using a strap. In your myofascial stretching routine, a strap allows you to move your extremities in an unlimited amount of directions to change the angle of your pressure with the therapy balls. While you can use a belt or a scarf, yoga straps come in different lengths and provide more options. My favorite yoga strap below also has elastic loops you can slip your hands through to decrease the amount of grip needed to hold the strap. This allows you to relax your body more as you stretch. The downside of this strap is that is cannot be made into a circle for bound poses in more traditional yoga practices.
You may also choose a traditional yoga D-ring strap. This brand comes in lots of colors and lengths (6, 8 or 10 feet). Why different lengths? The longer your legs or the reach of your arms, the longer your strap should be. A very tall person might want the longest strap length in order to provide the most options for using the strap. A shorter person may do just fine with a shorter strap. I have an 8 foot strap which serves me well. I’m 5’7″. The D-ring also allows the strap to be made into a circle for binding or securing the body in certain positions. A longer strap again offers more options.
One of my most used props in my toolkit is the half-roll. The calf stretch is the hands down 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 deepr 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 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 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.
Tools for the Neck
So 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, meditate.
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!
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 and is very pleased with how it has improved thier ability to work on each other.
If you are buying the self-care tools for a gift, the best possible pairing with the tools is a gift certificate to Mayer Wellness and Myofascial Release, LLC for a one one myofascial stretching consultation ($100) or to attend a Myofascial Stretching Workshop ($30). Gift certficiates are available for all our services. Contact Amy at MayerWellness@gmail.com or 402-651-9719.