Tennis balls, eye pillows and wedges… Why they may be useful

There is nothing wrong with support. This includes your self-care and yoga or movement practice. In these times when we are practising movement and yoga online, it is especially helpful to have a bit of feedback using support or props.

If you want to practise yoga with me you can join my online classes (live via zoom + recorded yoga) here or enquire about private yoga sessions – all via zoom.

In my previous blog, I shared some of the most common yoga props like yoga blocks, belts, blankets as well as using the wall or a chair for feedback and support.

Today we are looking at things not often used in yoga but props I love to use for my own movement practise, relaxation and self-massage.

Wedges, a modified block

I haven’t used this wedges much but I know a lot of people find their wrists are achy when spending time on their hands and knees or in downward facing dog pose. The wedge gives a bit more space for the wrists. 

Instead of a 90-degree angle which may feel too intense the heel of the hands is lifted slightly. You could use them under heels too in squats or downward dog. 

These may also be useful during pregnancy and postpartum if your wrists are achy (which is pretty common).

I got mine from here.

Eye bag for relaxation

The eye bags are usually made dried seeds or grains maybe with some dried lavender. The one I have (here in the video) is of flaxseed and lavender (very subtle aroma) and I bought it from Ekotex here

The eye bag keeps out the light or any flickering. And therefore keeps out distractions. Our eyes are highly alert and even with eyes closed, we can see light and movement which informs our nervous system whether we are safe or in danger. 

When we relax the extraocular eye muscles with a gentle pressure using the eye pillow (or cupping the eyes) it will inform our nervous system that we are safe and we can relax.

Tennis balls and yoga tune-ups balls for self-massage 

I sometimes got the tennis balls out in our in-person yoga classes for a short self-massage or pressure point massage. But you can really explore and play around with them.

They are excellent for deep massage. Placing a ball around the shoulder and lean against a wall, maybe move around a bit for a massage or find a trigger point and simply stay – and breathe.

You can lie down on them, roll around on them, stand on them (one at the time) to massage the feet. Our feet are often really tight and that tightness can affect our hamstrings, our pelvic floor and diaphragm and even our breathing.

They are inexpensive and so effective. I highly recommend getting a couple of tennis balls for your self-care, self-massage and treatment.

Pilates balls, or small gym balls

Another excellent massage tool. Obviously much softer and has a bigger surface than the tennis balls but effective in a slightly different way.

I use one that is just slightly soft and also one (well two) that are nearly deflated. I got them off Amazon but you can often get them at TK Maxx and sports shops.

Again just play around with them. Roll around on them on the floor or standing/seated against a wall. Massage around the shoulders and ribcage. Stay for a few breaths…

That’s the amazing thing with these balls (soft or nearly deflated). You can lean into them and they give feedback on how you breathe, and the body moves with the breath and how you can guide your breathing.

I like using either one of the balls as abdominal massage. You can place one of them under the abdomen as you are lying on the belly and really use your breath. Both to enhance your breathing but also to massage the belly as it moves towards the ball. You can wiggle around on them (especially the fuller ball) as a more active massage.

The nearly deflated ball is also a great alternative to a block or blanket when sitting. Because it’s soft and moveable it’s great for pelvic floor awareness and pelvic floor practices. 

This is another tool for everybody but excellent during pregnancy and postpartum.

The foam roller for self-massage

The foam roller might be more common in pilates or personal training. But it actually is a great tool for tight muscles. It can be an intense self-massage but highly recommended. And yes, you simply roll on it using your body weight to increase or decrease intensity.

Probably most seen as a way to massage the IT band on the outside of the hips and thighs. But also useful on the back, calves, front of the thighs (and that’s intense!). 

Your turn to play 

I invite you to have fun and play. Just play. Obviously, be mindful and aware. Notice what feel right and what’s better to avoid. 

Massage is powerful. Using simple tools like a tennis ball is powerful. Such a simple yet effective practise. Enjoy a full session of rolling around using props – and relax with your eye pillow at the end. Or just get the tennis ball out to massage your shoulders whilst watching Netflix or place under your feet while seated working at the computer. 

If you want to practise yoga with me you can join my online classes (live via zoom + recorded yoga) here or enquire about private yoga sessions – all via zoom.

Read my previous blog about more common props such as blocks and belts here.