Photo: Arthur Belebeau
Fascia and alignment expert Lauren Roxburgh shares the feel-good exercises to do today.
The under-the-radar issue that can lead to a major body breakthrough? Your fascia! Think of fascia as your body's internal webbing — it's the connective tissue that holds you up and helps your muscles and bones work and move as an integrated unit. When it's healthy, it's flexible, supple and glides easily. But after sitting at a desk all day, in a hunched over position, your fascia can become stiff, thick, dense compressed and condensed.
So that's where that foam roller that's been collecting dust under your bed comes in. "People have become a little obsessed with this idea that the more you train, the more ripped you're going to be," says Lauren Roxburgh, fascia and alignment expert. "It's really about the way you train that changes the shape of your body and posture. There's a lot more benefit in rejuvenating, restorative and mindful-based movement systems. I think the more people do it, the more they realize that this way of holistically sculpting the body is a game-changer."
Roxburgh has a dual purpose for your basic foam roller: first she uses it as a self-massage tool to help increase fascia flexibility, elongation and suppleness. Then, she uses the portable tool to completely transform your core and posture. In fact, she often sees her clients grow an inch and lose a pant size after a few sessions together. "Rolling out the tissue helps elongate it, but then strengthening the muscle after you rolled it out is an important way to keep that balanced muscular tone and shape," she says.
This smart training method combines feel-good self-massage moves with core-sculpting exercises to create the ultimate power combination session. "You can elongate and smooth out the fascia and actually roll away the density and also bring in this great circulation, lubrication and hydration into the tissue, which makes the skin and muscle look and feel more supple and youthful. It also stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps get rid of bloating."
The result is a more efficient, graceful, balanced body. Sign us up!
Since Roxburgh can't sit in our office and give us mini fascia breaks throughout the day (sigh, we wish), we had her share five smart moves that will help our posture and our waist. Brush off the dust on your foam roller (or try the one Roxburgh recommends) and prepare to make it your new favorite training tool.
Rolling for Self-Massage
1. Upper Back Twist Massage
Benefit: Increases lymphatic drainage, helps to stimulates circulation and blood flow to the upper back and shoulders and reduces tension and compression.
Lie with your middle upper back down on the foam roller, perpendicular to your body. You should be slightly twisted toward the right side of your upper back, right armpit and ribs (as shown). Bend your knees 90 degrees, and place your feet flat on the floor. From this position, roll from your armpit about four inches down towards your waist and back again—drive the roller by pressing your feet, for 30 seconds to a minute. Switch sides; repeat, using the same deep breathing as you do so. Repeat 8 times on each side.
2. Collarbone Alignment
Benefits: This opens the deep attachments of the chest, fronts of the shoulders and collarbones to reveal a more elegant chest and neck. It also reduces head forward posture and tension in the upper back and neck.
Place the roller behind you, right at your bra-line, with your knees bent and together, feet together and planted on the floor. Reach your arms behind you and wrap your biceps around the roller, rotating your forearms and palms up as you look straight ahead. Inhale as you twist your hip to the left and your head to the right, stretching you neck and entire spine (as shown). Exhale for a few seconds to feel the opening and expansion. Inhale to reverse the position and fully exhale to hold and release. Repeat 8 times on each side.
3. Chest Expansion and Shoulder Massage
Benefit: This brings oxygenated blood and lubrication to the head, neck, shoulders, chest and thoracic spine. It encourages the shoulders to go back more effortlessly, which will make you look and feel taller and calmer.
Lie face up and place the roller under you in a parallel position, supporting your entire spine from head to tailbone. Reach your arms out to the side, elbows at a 90-degree angle, with the palms of your hands up and expand the chest (as shown). Inhale as you bring your forearms together above your chest, and exhale as you reach your forearms down to the mat, while wrapping your shoulder blades around the roller expanding your chest, arms and neck. This will massage your shoulder blades and open your chest as you move. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
See More: The One Move That Tones your Upper Body
Rolling for Sculpting and Toning
4. Inverted Waist Shrinker
Benefit: This inversion stimulates the lymphatic system, increases circulation and helps tone and lift your core muscles and organs. This move also gives your lower back a soft tissue fascia release and lubricates your lower back and hips.
Place the roller under your sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of your spine). Place your upper back and shoulders to the mat, keeping your waist elevated in a bridge position. Bend your knees to about a 90-degree angle with knees over hips. Place your hands on either side of the outer edge of the roller to make sure it doesn't slip (as shown). The roller should remain stable throughout this exercise. Inhale as you reach your legs and extend your legs straight to a 45-degree angle. Reach them down as low as you can without using or arching in your lower back and shoulders. As you exhale, use your deep lower belly to draw your knees back up in. Your spine should remain stable and neutral for the duration of this exercise. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Benefit: This builds longer, leaner and stronger muscles along the sides of the body and waist, which helps the core stay firm.
Lie down on your left side with your legs stretched out in front of you. Place the roller under your bottom (left) leg, just above the anklebone. Place your left elbow directly under your shoulder, with your left forearm flat on the ground. Press down into your lower leg and forearm and lift your side body (or "hourglass") off the ground while keeping the roller still and stable. You will want to continue to keep the roller stable throughout this entire exercise. Inhale and sweep your right arm up toward the sky (as shown). As you exhale, rotate your torso and top arm down toward the ground, while keeping your body propped up in space. Then return back to the side plank position. Repeat 8 to 10 times on each side.