With many moving their workout routines indoors, and spending more time at home in general amidst the outbreak of the new coronavirus, a convenient means for releasing muscular tension within the confines of the living room is more than welcome.

That’s where self-myofascial release, a form of self-massage by way of foam-rolling, offers a game-changing solution. Described by Maya Jocelyn, founder of Brooklyn-based holistic health and arts center Studio Maya, as a “one-size-fits-all approach to stretching,” the alternative medicine therapy is equal parts accessible, effective, and time-saving. “It’s extremely efficient in that you can use your body weight to create pressure and give yourself a substantial massage, accessing parts of your body that you can’t reach with your hands,” explains Jocelyn. “You can address your entire body in 10 minutes.”

Technically speaking, myo means muscle and fascial refers to fascia, the thin lining that wraps every muscle in the body. “When muscles stay contracted, fascia can lose its elasticity, leaving you feeling tight, stiff, and tired,” she explains. “Self-myofascial release increases blood flow to the muscles and gives a gentle stretch to the fascia, which can help you feel more open, free, and energized.” Foam rolling offers a multitude of benefits for those who spend an alarming amount of time sitting in an office chair (or perched at a makeshift kitchen-table desk, as the case may be). “It helps reverse the damage this causes, while lengthening the leg muscles, elongating your back, opening up the shoulders, and freeing up your neck.”

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To get started, Jocelyn recommends beginning with a soft, low-density roller, such as Perform Better’s three-foot molded foam roller as opposed to a firmer, high-density one, which will allow the body to get accustomed to the pressure. For a foam-rolling novice, it’s essential to tread lightly so as not to strain or seriously bruise your muscles. And in that sense, you’re your own best judge. “There’s a zone where pain and pleasure overlap,” explains Jocelyn. “You should apply enough pressure that you feel some intensity, but it feels so good you never want it to end. This usually means that you’re fully relaxing into the stretch.” As you gain more experience, she recommends taking a peeling-the-onion approach, softening (or “sweet talking” as she likes to call it) one layer of muscle at a time. “Muscles that are very tight are usually very bad at letting go. They may need to be taught how to relax.”

How often one should roll depends on the amount of tension being felt, and it can range from every day to just a few times a week. “Take your time and have a conversation with your muscles,” instructs Jocelyn. “You will find that they are very opinionated and have a lot to say.” As for when, the day is your oyster, but Jocelyn is partial to nighttime since self-myofascial has a calming effect, and thus can help you unwind from the day and prepare for more restful sleep. From a full-body reset to soothing sore quads, here Jocelyn outlines five basic foam-rolling techniques to try now for a blissfully untethered physique.

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