Fun with a Foam Roller!

Among my favorite yoga and exercise props or pieces of home equipment is the simple foam roller, largely due to its versatility. When rolled along tight muscles, it serves as a poor gal’s massage. It also creates some great abdominal workouts, a la Pilates. Finally, I like to use it as a companion for certain asanas, similar to a yoga block, when practicing at home or stretching at the gym. Check out the simple hip series below, beginning with a low lunge (a.k.a. a runner’s lunge) and progressing into a supported half pigeon on the roller. This is a perfect little sequence for athletes, runners, desk jockeys, or anyone else with tight hips. Try it, and tell me what you think!

Start by lunging over the foam roller. It’s nice to place your hands on it, for added support, similar to having a yoga block under each hand. Breath, here, deeply for 5-10 breaths.

Toe-heel your foot across the top edge of your mat, so that you are sitting on the roller. You’ll notice it fits snugly into the crook behind your knee.

Walk your hands forward and start to move your torso toward the floor.

Eventually, you will fold forward completely, as in half pigeon pose. By rocking slightly forward and back along the roller, you’ll feel added support and emphasis in your hip, hamstring, and outer thigh. The roller will also help adjust your shin toward parallel with the top edge of your yoga mat (the fullest expression of the pose). Be sure to flex your front foot to protect your knee, and if you feel any twinges in the knee, back off right away. Hold for 10 breaths or more on each side.
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  • holly

    Oooh, that looks like sweet, sweet torture ;-)

    Will have to give that one a try. I like how it looks like the roller will help keep your shin parallel to the top of the yoga mat.

  • Om Gal

    Excellent point, Holly, about adjusting the shin toward parallel (which I forgot to add). I added it in just now. Thank you! It is a very good pose, but if you're tight, it can be intense. Go easy. Enjoy!

  • Michelle

    Thanks for the foam roller advise, i have one and do not use it often, i forget all the uses…so its always nice to be reminded, and yes, my body would love this one!

  • smalls

    This would totally help my pigeon.

    I wonder if my CitySports has rollers. They're also super good for massaging quads. If I can remember right, you lay on the roller – around the lower hips area. I think you cross your feet over one and another (so you do one quad at a time), and slowly walk your hands out like a walking plank. This will roll your quad over the roller and act like a deep tissue massage.

    I'm not sure if I'm remembering that right, but it's something like that, and works really well!

    - alexis

  • Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

    My inner thighs and hips really appreciates the foam roller when it comes to the posture commonly loved by 6 year-old girls known as the splits. These 30-year old hips aren't quite as rise and shine as they used to be.

  • Jen

    Oh I love a deep lunge and half-pigeon! Thanks for the propping suggestions, Rebecca. We actually use rolled blankets in my Svaroopa Yoga class to support our hip in half-pigeon.

  • YogaMaendy

    Awesome! I love my foam roller, but only because of the way it gets all the cracks out of my spine when I roll my back on it :) I actually never thought of using it in Yoga hahaha :) I am going to try these as soon as I get home – thanks for posting!

  • mrafalski

    This is great. I've been doing pigeon, but I've never been able to have my shin parallel to the mat. I figured it would come with time, but when I used my old mat (I don't have a roller) to keep it parallel and to prop my knee it made a huge difference. I could feel how much more deeply I was stetching that muscle. Thank-you for this. I think by doing pigeon correctly I might actually see some progress in the opening of my hips.

  • Yoginigirrl

    What a great reminder for prop use. Just used it for early morning stretch…such a gentle self alignment technique.