Hurts so good. Just as important as strengthening your muscles is massaging, stretching, releasing and relaxing them. Let’s talk about my favorite ways to do this at home (I may or may not be using two of these self-massage tools simultaneously as I write this post…)
Pranamat ECO Acupressure Mat
Let’s kick this list off with my current obsession: this acupressure mat from Pranamat. Acupressure is like acupuncture meets massage. We’ve all heard of laying on a bed of nails, and it’s like that—only the “nails” are pretty pointed lotus flowers. I’m not an expert on acupressure, so I want to focus this on how it makes me feel, but here’s a little background on it first, as provided by Pranamat:
The effects of the Pranamat are incredibly similar to those of acupuncture. Circulation is improved, toxins throughout the body are eliminated and muscles, joints and tissues are relaxed. The nervous system is also stimulated in order to encourage the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Not only will persistent pain by reduced, but you’ll experience a heightened state of mental and physical wellbeing. Whilst you’ll notice these effects with each daily use of the Pranamat ECO, you’ll also find that over time the mat can actually help to cure chronic aches and pains.
The feeling I get from using my acupressure mat is similar to that which I get from yoga: a big mix of relaxed, refreshed, invigorated and clear-headed. It’s amazing. Is it a little painful when you first lay onto it? Yes. But as you lay there and your muscles start to relax, it almost feels like those metal pronged head massagers—a tingly feeling that sends a little shiver through your body and seems to electrify your senses. It’s awesome. You might not believe a hard mat of spikes poking into your skin can be relaxing, but I seriously fall asleep almost every time I lay on it. Seriously.
You can use acupressure mats on almost every area of the body, but my back is definitely my favorite. I like to target the low back by putting a towel or small pillow under it. If I want more pressure in my upper back, I’ll put a pillow under my head and bend my knees with my feet flat on the floor. When I’m laying on my back, I’ll do it for 20 minutes (unless I fall asleep haha), when I’m stressed out, in need of refocusing, or just need a little breather in the middle of the day. As you can probably guess, I also enjoy doing it before bed.
We gotta keep things PG around here (obviously!), but I actually prefer laying on the mat topless so that there’s direct contact with my skin. You can make the pressure less intense by wearing clothing. My hands are really sensitive on the mat so I’ll either apply them in a table top position or lay a thin sheet over the mat before pressing down more firmly. My feet are tougher (read: more disgusting and calloused) so I’ll stand directly on the mat, sometimes choosing to sit if I’m doing work while using it.
And bonus points to Pranamat ECO for being made of green materials!
My facial expression in the above picture says it all. I love-hate foam rolling with a passion. My lower body is usually my focus when using this torture device. It depends on the workouts I’ve done that week and where I’m feeling tight, but calves are always a must-roll, as are the TFL and glutes.
I’m going to do some more posts on the subject and elaborate on when it’s most effective to use foam rolling (self-myofascial release) and how to do it to hit certain areas so stay tuned! The one I use is from Gaiam.
Air-Filled Soft(er) Spike Double Ball
This funky little thing is made by Rejuvenation and I found it at City Sports several months ago when experiencing some pain in the arches of my feet (you can find it online here). It’s a squishier than a foam roller or tennis ball, which makes it great on the more sensitive areas that need a more forgiving roll-out. This, plus its shape, makes it PERFECT for massaging the insteps and outside edges of my feet. Years of tap dancing and my current activity level leave my feet in need of some major TLC. I seriously roll my feet through this thing all day while sitting and standing at my desk.
Last but certainly not least is a good ol’ fashioned tennis ball. You can roll out practically your entire body with a tennis ball, but my favorite uses for it are targeting the feet, when I need harder pressure than offered by the spiky ball, and the chest, right by my armpits. I’ll find a tender spot then just lay flat on my stomach with the ball nestled right by my shoulder socket/armpit on the outside of my chest. Sometimes it feels good just to lay in stillness; other times I’ll roll around a little.
A tennis ball is also awesome for targeted, small knots, when the broad surface area of a foam roller just isn’t cutting it.
What are some of your favorite self-massage tools? Have you ever used an acupressure mat? What’d you think?
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Pranamat. While I was compensated for my time, all opinions—as always!—are my own. I love this acupressure mat FO’ REAL, guys!