March 19, 2010

RollStretch: a new way of working with fascia

Today's video introduces you to RollStretch, a combination of stretching techniques and fascial rolling and releasing techniques, using simple and inexpensive devices to focus on parts of the body that are hard to roll using the usual methods.

We show you how to use polished sticks to work the muscles and fascia of the back of the legs, to help you to be able to sit on your heels on the floor comfortably. This rolling technique will help you get a deeper full squat in time, too (because the backs of the legs soften, the knee and hip angles can close more in the bottom position). This technique alone has helped many people get the full squat for the first time. The larger point is that any time joints need to close, the tissues on the inside of this movement have to yield—and so often they do not. RollStretch teaches the body how to yield, and what yielding feels like. Whole-body proprioception is woken up in the process.

In time, even Achilles tendonitis can be addressed and treated using these techniques.

We feel that targeting fascia in this mechanical way (rather like getting a deep tissue massage) really helps you stretch more effectively. Using the simple tools we recommend (sticks, various size balls, and other objects) can make an amazing difference to how you feel and function.

Read transcription

Those of you who've been working with the Travel Rollers, that's Adam and Arysta's wonderful device, I've got I think all four colors here, we'll get to that in a moment, will recognize these, but what David and I want to show you today is the use of these medium sized balls, which we call belly balls for rolling the internal organs. And also two example sticks, one thicker than the other, which we use for working on front shin muscles, for hamstrings. And also we're going to show you a way to use them to improve your front splits and side splits. It sounds a bit radical, and it certainly feels radical, but the effect of working on your fascia using a combination of these devices just simply can't be beat.

And we also know that fascia is a red hot research topic right now, but what we're going to talk about today is there's nothing theoretical about it. It's practical. It can be implemented immediately and whatever your flexibility level is, these devices can be incorporated. And the key thing is you'll know straight away from the instant results that you get that this is likely to be very beneficial for you. So we'll begin with the sticks. Many people have written to us and asked how they can improve this sitting position. In my own case, when I first went to Japan, it took about five years to be able to sit with my bottom on the ground in between my heels.

But since we've discovered the Travel Roller and we've started experimenting with sticks and other devices to loosen fascia, I know that we can speed that process up for most of you. And this is what I recommend. You'll see here that I have two sticks. One's a bit thicker than the other. We're going to use the thinner of the sticks to work on the two parts of the calf muscle and all three parts of the hamstring muscle. And this is how we do it. We lift the hips away from the heels like this, put the stick up near the knee joint itself and let as much of your body's weight down onto the stick as you can actually tolerate.

Now in the beginning, this will be quite an intense sensation. Then lift yourself away and move the stick a little bit further away from the knee and again, let your body's weight settle on the stick. Now, what you'll find is that when you move the stick small amounts to different places, there are quite different sensations produced in the body. And if you find, for example in this position here, where my heel is in contact with the bottom itself there isn't any great strong sensation, then what you can do is lean forward and actually apply your weight to the stick. And in a kind of pulsing alternating action like this, you can increase the weight from one side to the other.

Then when you roll down to about here, in my case, I'm actually on that junction between soleus and gastrocnemius, roll down a little bit further, more on soleus now without any gastrocnemius. And then when we get down here, we actually start to feel soleus and the Achilles tendon itself. And in fact, we can go all the way down the leg, and I'm doing this fairly quickly, you'll take more time to do this, alternating the sensation like this by alternating weight, leaning on one side of the stick and then the other. And I'll show you what that looks like from the front in a moment. Now I've been doing a lot of walking up and down hills lately, and as a result the Achilles tendons are a tiny bit tender today.

And so this is, in my view, absolutely fantastic therapy for this. It's much more intense than using the Travel Rollers, but the principles are exactly the same. So let me just show you again. And I should also mention that when these muscles here loosen, when the calf muscles and hamstring muscles loosen in this position here, it takes away any strain that might be felt in the knees by trying to sit on your heels like this. So let me show you once more; put the stick right up here, like this, and slowly lower yourself onto your heels like this. And in the beginning I recommend strongly that you take some of your weight, in fact, quite a lot of your weight on your fingertips.

But as I said, in time, you'll be able to allow all of your body's weight to come on those muscles. And then once you've worked on one point, just roll the sticks a slight amount closer to the heel itself, wriggle around a little bit, move a little bit more. And I'm wearing shorts today, but it's more comfortable for most people to do it in long pants like tracksuit pants or tights. And working on the fascia and the muscles to in this way makes later stretching of those muscles just so much more easy and more comfortable we've found. Also, if you've ever pulled a calf muscle, it's normally some of the fascia between gastrocnemius and soleus where the site of those injuries most commonly occurs.

And we have found that this targets that part of the junction between the muscle better than any other technique, including my stretching exercises, I have to say. Okay, so I'm just going to turn around and face you and show you what that looks like from the front. Now, this is what I meant about transferring your weight from side to side. In the beginning be gentle with yourself when you do this, because until the body gets used to it, it really is very intense indeed. It's just like having someone do a strong massage on the calf muscles with their elbows or their knees. If any of you have ever had any shiatsu treatments or anything like that, you'll know what I'm talking about.

And when you find some particular line, like this spot here today for me, requires some effort being put into it, I'm still, and I lean the weight down onto the sticks like this – that emphasizes the calf muscles – and if I pull back like this, that emphasizes the hamstring muscles. And if I lean from side to side like this, that pulses the maximum effect from one calf muscle to the other. And then I lift the weight off slightly, roll the stick back half an inch or so, and then settle back into the same routine. And to roll all of the muscles from the knee joint to the Achilles tendon, for me personally it takes about 10 minutes. So don't be in a hurry here. And also if you let your body's weight settle on the stick, as I'm letting it settle on now, you'll find that the immediate intense sensation reduces quite significantly and you can tolerate it for quite a bit longer.


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