Today everyone is foam rolling; professional athletes do it, weekend warriors do it, everyday exercisers do it…even people who don't workout are getting hip to the benefits of foam rolling. Yogis, especially, can benefit from the joys of foam rolling. When you do yoga, especially if you're new to the practice, you're often twisting your body in ways you never have before. New poses will often cause your muscles to tense up. Foam rolling will loosen up the tight muscles, help speed recovery, and get you ready for your next yoga session.

Benefits of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling offers your body a number of wonderful benefits. These include:

1. Improved flexibility: While yoga is wonderful for flexibility, a little extra assistance couldn't hurt, right? Research shows that when you foam roll, you increase the oxygen to your muscles, which results in improved flexibility. This extra oxygen also helps speed muscle recovery so you will feel less sore the next day.

2. Injury prevention: Foam rolling helps to loosen tight muscles and get rid of the knots we often feel when our muscles get too tight. If you don't loosen those knots, they'll just keep getting tighter, causing shoulders to creep up, hamstrings to cramp up…and that muscle tightness can often lead to injury. A few minutes each day on your foam roller is cheaper than a massage and can work miracles when it comes to relief.

3. Increased range of motion: Yoga can increase our range of motion the more we practice, and adding foam rolling to your yoga practice is the icing on the cake. A recent study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) proved that soccer players who used a foam roller for just two minutes on their quads and hamstrings had significant improvement in the range of motion of their hips and knees. When you practice yoga, you ask a lot from your hips and knees; increasing their range of motion can make your practice easier and, again, help prevent injury.

Adding foam rolling to your routine will compliment your yoga practice. It will also help you with other forms of exercise, be it cardio or strength training. You will feel better, less stressed, more relaxed and more flexible. You may find that you stand taller, too.

Essentially, foam rolling is just self-massage, and who doesn't love (and need) an effective massage? Foam roll every day (or several times a week) for just a few minutes and you will notice a big difference in your body and in your yoga practice. Foam rolling can be done before or after a workout; it’s not so much when you do it as 'if' you do it!

It is important to note, though, that the first few times you foam roll it will be a bit painful, especially if you have very tight muscles. There are different types of foam rollers on the market; start with one aimed for beginners when you start (these are a bit less firm, and won't hurt as much!). As you roll, you'll find trigger points, or knots. When you find one, you'll want to stay on the knot for a few breaths (remember to breathe!) and then when it releases or feels a bit less painful, move on to the next knot. It will get easier over time and the benefits are worth it!