jill miller

Photo: Courtesy of The Roll Model

If you got out of bed today feeling like a creaky old robot, chances are your fascia is to blame. Fascia is the interconnected web of tissues that wraps in and around your muscles, bones and organs. Healthy fascia can decrease everyday aches and pains, help you feel less sore after exercising, prevent injury and make you feel more comfortable in your own skin. To get yours back in working order, try these moves from Jill Miller, a fitness therapy pioneer, developer of classes for Equinox and 24 Hour Fitness and the author of The Roll Model, a comprehensive fascia fitness plan.

The Secret Trigger Point in Your Chest That Relieves Pain in Your Shoulders

What you need: A tennis ball or one of Miller's Yoga Tune Up balls, a corner or doorway

What to do: Place the ball on your pectoralis minor, which is between your collarbone and your armpit. Lean your body and the ball onto the wall corner so that your head can freely move. Adjust your pressure so that the ball stays pinned against your chest as you move. Roll the ball gently from side to side, up and down, rolling deeper into spots where you feel relief.

What it does: This loosens the muscles and tissues of the pec minor that tend to get extremely tight from hunching over all day or gripping objects like a steering wheel, a tennis racket or a computer mouse.

How that feels: The pec minor is at the intersection of tissues that run around the back as well as down the arm, says Miller. She promises that you'll feel intense relief in your chest as well as your shoulders, upper back, neck, wrist, thumb and hand. In The Roll Model, Miller tells the story of a former hockey player who had terrible hand, neck and shoulder pain that affected his career and his sleep. Regularly practicing a sequence of moves including this one took care of his pain at night as well as during daily workouts.
outer thigh pain relief

Photo: Courtesy of The Roll Model

A Move to Help Prevent Leg Pain Before It Hits
What you need: Two tennis balls or Yoga Tune Up balls

What to do: Sit on the floor leaning to your right side. Swing your left leg behind you so that most of your weight is on your front right hip. Put two balls under your upper thigh between your outer thigh and the floor. Because of the weight of your leg on the balls, this may feel intense enough that you decide to simply stay there for a while taking deep breaths. When you're ready, slide your whole leg forward and backward over the balls. (To increase the intensity, push down on your right thigh with your hand.)

What it does: This targets the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the leg from the hip to the shin, stabilizing the knee. When the IT band gets tight or inflamed, it can result in serious, side-lining pain. Rolling the balls horizontally across these muscles ("cross-fibering") teases apart stuck or dehydrated tissues, and Miller says it's one of the most effective techniques for kneading stiffness out of fascia.

How that feels: After doing this move, the outsides of your thighs should feel looser and more relaxed, and knee pain (if you had any) should feel less intense.
relieve back pain

Photo: Courtesy of The Roll Model

The Laziest Possible Way to Give Your Back a Massage
What you need: Two tennis balls or Yoga Tune Up balls

What to do: Lie on your back on the floor. Put the balls under your back, side-by-side, resting horizontally along the band of your sports bra. Inhale a massive ribcage breath, then exhale the air by squeezing your ribs together, flattening the balls beneath you. Repeat 5 times.

What it does: Miller calls this type of move "sustained compression." The balls press into specific tissues, slowly prying them apart. As a result, small sections of the fascia stretch and lengthen, relieving tension.

How that feels: This should release some of the tightness in the upper back. You can use this same technique with other points in your body that may feel sore (after an intense workout or a really long day at work—glutes, calves, neck). Miller advises against pressing the balls directly on an especially tender spot (it's too intense); instead, she says to tease toward the area, allowing the balls to sink into the tissue just around it, holding the pressure for 90 to 120 seconds at a time.

The Essential Move for Anyone Who Runs, Jumps, Squats or Even Just Walks

What you need: A foam roller

What to do: To work your hamstrings and glutes, start by sitting on the roller with your hands on the ground behind you. Create a small zigzag motion with your hips and thighs while you simultaneously roll down your legs toward your knees, then back up to your glutes. When you hit a tight spot, create friction at that spot by wiggling yourself from side-to side while the roller stays stationary.

What it does: Miller says this "global shearing" move pulls, twists and wrings the skin and its underlying tissues away from your body and each other, unsticking large swaths of the tissues and restoring their ability to slide and glide.

How that feels: The back of your legs should feel loose and limber, as if you've been stretching them.