Christina Jones of Ellicott City rolls out her back during foam rolling class at Main Street Yoga.
Christina Jones of Ellicott City rolls out her back during foam rolling class at Main Street Yoga. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)
We’ve been upping yoga’s ante for decades with variations like hot yoga, yoga set to trap music and even yoga while beer is served. Now, foam rolling, one of the latest enhancements to the practice, has landed in Ellicott City at Main Street Yoga.
Through foam rolling, yogis can deepen their poses, further release their muscles and improve their overall muscle health, according to Dan Hill, one of 17 instructors at the studio.
“Yoga is a lot about opening up. So foam rolling will help you open up in different areas,” says Hill, who uses foam rollers and lacrosse balls in his Friday morning class to release muscles better than ordinary stretching or massaging.
Foam rolling is considered self-massage or soft-tissue therapy. Similar to a massage, foam rolling aims to work out adhesions, or knots, in and around a person’s muscles and joints through the application of pressure, breaking them down and restoring the fluid movement.
“It’s very similar to getting a massage. You’re just doing it for yourself,” Hill explains.
Hill’s class starts with the base of the foot and works its way up the body, releasing tension with every push. For some, the effects are noticeable right away.
Shana Sterkin, who attended a foam-rolling workshop when the studio first opened in February, says, “After we worked the right side of our body, he had us hop on one foot, and it seemed so easy to just leap up in the air. Then he had us try to jump on our left side and it seemed so much heavier.”
Amy Isler of Catonsville, who attended a foam-rolling class and another class back-to-back one day, says she saw a big difference in her practice. “I felt more flexible. I had a greater range of motion,” she says.
Sterkin adds that the atmosphere at foam-rolling class is a bit different from a typical yoga class. “Normally in a yoga class it’s a little quieter. In foam rolling it’s a little more energized, and you feel like you can make noises,” she says. “Like a little grunt or something is totally normal to hear in that class. The music is a little more intense; it’s trying to really get you going.”
Hill has a combination foam-rolling and yoga workshop in the works for June. But class participants warn that prospective foam rollers should be prepared for pain.
“In yoga, we’re told if something hurts to stop doing what you’re doing, but in foam rolling, it’s kind of like, no pain no gain,” says Sterkin.
Isler agrees. “It’s definitely one of those ‘hurts so good’ situations,” she says. “I didn’t think it was too terrible. You have the ability to control the intensity. You can put pressure on or draw back according to your comfort level.”
Proponents of the practice find that foam rolling’s benefits — overall increased muscle strength, relief of knots and kinks, and greater flexibility — outweigh the pain.
“Don’t be discouraged because of the pain,” Hill says. “The more often you do it, the less it’s going to hurt because your body is going to be more functional.”