Spring Renewal: Yoga and Ball Rolling for Mind, Body, and ‘Sole’

Spring Renewal: Yoga and Ball Rolling for Mind, Body, and ‘Sole’

Spring Renewal:
Yoga and Ball Rolling for Mind, Body, and ‘Sole’

By: Deirdre Smith-Gilmer

I like to do a little asana test before I start, as a warm-up but also as a way to watch my progress. Then, I do the ball work on one side, then I re-do the asana, then do the ball work on the other side and then repeat the asana one short final time so that I can see the difference the ball work made.

Feet: Put a little spring in your step

Here I would do some standing calf and foot stretches or even take a short walk around the room noticing my feet as a way to start.  

I break the foot work down into 4 areas of the foot with 3 exercises in each area.  I do all 3 exercises in the first area then move progressively through the rest of the areas.  
The 4 areas are:  under the ball of the foot, under the front of arch, under the back of arch, under the heel

The 3 exercises are:

Roll the ball from side to side, gliding across the bottom of the foot from inner to outer (not toe to heel direction)Koala Claw, grip the ball like an animal trying to hold it with their paw and while holding it, roll from inner to outer (more for the ankle). Rocket Ship, one ball under one foot, bend knees & straighten pushing down into ball X3

Roll side to side

Koala Claw

Rocket Ship

Breathing: Take a breath of fresh air

Sit up tall and breathe.  Notice how deep/full your breath feels and where you feel it in your body.  Also notice where it feels tight and hard to breathe.  Check in with this position between each side of your body after you do the exercise.  

I use a large squishy ball for this exercise but you can use a tightly rolled up yoga blanket or even a folded or rolled small throw pillow.  The squishy ball is about volleyball/soccer ball size but is only partially inflated, if it is fully inflated it is usually too intense for this exercise.

You can do this exercise lying on your belly with the ball underneath the front side of your body and along each side of your torso.  

In terms of the location of the ball on the front side of your body I usually do 4 spots:  

Position 1: High in the chest, above the breast tissue.  Rest your forehead on your stacked hands or a block so it doesn’t feel like the ball is in your throat 

Position 2: Underneath the breast tissue in the area of the xiphoid process, lower sternum 

Position 3: In the middle of the soft tissue of the belly 

Position 4: In the lower abdomen resting on the pubic bone.

The location of the ball on the sides of the body depends on the length of your torso but you can do 3 or 4 spots between the armpit, ribcage, and side of your waistline above the rim of the pelvis.

Position 1

Position 2

Position 3

Position 4

Hips/Butt: Free your cottontail

Try some hip circles standing like you are inside a hula hoop, notice if there are areas that are tighter than other areas in the circle.  If pigeon poses or figure four postures are easy for you then experiment with them before and after the ball work.

Lie on your back with a tennis ball under one butt cheek.  Roll a little side to side and notice where the spots of tension are.  IF you want more intensity then add a larger squishy ball/block/pillow under the other butt cheek.  You might do just one spot or time and intensity depending you might repeat these exercises in a few other spots on that one side. 

There are 3 exercises with both feet on the floor, legs bent with knees up towards the ceiling.

1. Little rocking: move your pelvis like in a cat/cow motion. Go slowly, repeating as many times as you want.

2. Butterfly wing: open the bent leg with the ball under it to the side like you are opening half a butterfly wing & hold, breathe. IF you want more, then move the leg out to the side & back in like you are opening and closing the butterfly wing.

3. Slide: slide the foot along the floor to full leg extension then reel it back in.

Additional exercises are:

to pick the foot off the floor but stay weighted into the ball, slowly lower the foot back down  bring that same leg up and cross the ankle above the opposite knee in a thread-the-needle position then gently rock side to side.

Little Rocking

Butterfly Wing

Slide to Extension

Neck: Emerge from the turtleneck

You might try some easy head rolls or check in by tilting your head/ear towards your shoulder, make sure to do both sides.

For this one you’ll need a wall, a block and a ball. Go to the wall with your shoulder toward the wall, pin the small ball between your neck and the block (which is just above shoulder height) and the wall so that your shoulder can freely move underneath the block.

The 3 exercises are:

Speed Bumps: Roll from front of your neck (side of your throat) all the way back towards the spine pausing along the way to breath into the “speed bumps”. The image I use here is that you have a series of choker necklaces on and you progressively make your way up each level, rolling front to back then moving up to the next necklace, etc. Do this from the base of the neck all the way up to underneath the ear area.Finding the Knots: After rolling and discovering where the knots are you can pause on a knot and gently roll around it, either up & down or in circles.Tilting Your Head: You can also experiment with tilting your head towards the wall and away from the wall while putting light pressure into the knot.

Speed Bumps

Finding the Knots

Tilting Your Head

Want more Gentle Yoga & Ball Rolling?

Join Deirdre for her weekly class!

Gentle Yoga & Ball Rolling | Fridays @ 10am 

Deirdre began practicing yoga in 1994 in NYC. From that moment began her 20 year love affair with the practices and teachings of yoga. Her passion is to create a sense of belonging in her classes by coupling her serious dedication with a light-hearted approach. In this way, you will find her classes are alive with questions, philosophy, and humor based on connecting real life situations to the physical practice.

Deirdre’s background as a professional modern dancer encourages her creative spirit to choreograph every “class as an intimate concoction of equal parts inquiry of the heart, humility of the mind, and precision in expression of the body” (student Kris H). She is constantly approaching yoga from different angles yet maintains a steady commitment to alignment, as well as, physical & emotional safety.

Her gratitude, love, and adoration for her family, community and teachers is unbounded. Her strongest experiences and trainings have been in the Krisnamacharya Lineage through Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar, Vini Yoga (Desikachar in Madras, India) and Anusara (formerly Certified). Deirdre is E-RYT 500 Yoga Alliance Certified.

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