Roll into Summer: Guide to Releasing Tension with Myofascial Ball Rolling!

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.

Calves & Shins: Put a little spring in your step

Try some calf stretches like downward facing dog or high lunge w/shifts forward & back &/or any standing calf stretch.  Also try stretching the top side of your foot.

Start with the calves:

  • Sit with legs stretched out in front of you with a block under one leg, foot hanging off the end. Use 2 balls in the bag under the calf (on top of the block) so the balls cradle both heads of gastrocnemius muscle.
  • Cross other leg on top for more intensity and lean forward.
  • For less intensity lean back and do NOT cross the leg over.

Pick 3 to 4 spots, I usually start near the ankle and work my way up the calf

  • Small movements rolling just a few inches in the direction from heel up towards the back of the knee (release tension, relax the foot for more challenge)
  • Add movement of the foot; point & flex & circles
  • Can also add cross fiber rolling side to side
  • Another option can be to repeat entire series w/just 1 ball, very different!
Position 1
Option A: 1 Leg
Option B: Legs Crossed
Position 4

Moving on to the shins. You might be surprised….

  • Get on all 4s with a block underneath you. Put the 2 small balls in bag onto the block and nestle your shin in between the balls with your foot hanging off so it can relax.
  • The less intense version is to stand with lower leg in chair and hold onto the back of the chair for stability.
  • Leaning into the ball leg intensifies it and leaning away into the standing or kneeling leg takes weight off the shin.

Much like the calves, pick 3 to 4 areas between the ankle and the knee. I usually start at the ankle and work up. Try rolling all the way up the shin from foot to knee as a check in. Once you’ve discovered the spots you want to revisit try these:

  • little rolls in each area
  • lift/lower knee like a see-saw
  • Point/flex foot, supinate/pronate foot
Point Foot
Flex Foot
Variation: Standing on Chair

Traps & Pecs at the Wall

This approach is accessible, it feels really good because we hold a lot of tension here, plus, the wall is a great option to lessen the intensity.

Try a little standing warm-up with swimming arm motions or arms up & pull one over with the other or INhale arms up and EXhale arms down or shoulder circles and/or interlace hands behind back for a chest opener.

  • To lessen the intensity of the work walk your feet toward the wall, to increase intensity walk feet away from the wall so there is more pressure/body weight into the wall.
  • Do ALL of these rotations on one side first before doing the other side.
  • Lean against the wall, pinning the ball between your upper back and the wall.
I usually do about 3 spots for each exercise, starting high and moving down to two more spots but staying the in area of the shoulder blade.

Upper Back (Traps)

  1. Small movements: Lean against the wall with the ball on your upper back. Make small, gentle side-to-side and up-and-down movements. Cover three spots, starting high and moving lower.
  2. Arm glides: Keeping the ball in place, slowly move your arm up and down along the wall.
  3. Cross arm movements: Cross your arm in front of your body, placing your hand on the opposite shoulder. Move your body gently up and down or side to side.


Side Body (Arm Pit Area)

  1. Side body pin: Turn your side to the wall, pinning the ball under your armpit. Drape your arm overhead and make small movements side to side and up and down.


Chest (Pecs)

  1. Face wall pin: Face the wall with the ball between your chest and a block. Target three spots: near the sternum, mid-chest, and upper arm.
  2. Small movements: Perform small side-to-side and up-and-down movements.
  3. Arm glides: Slowly move your arm up and down against the wall, keeping the ball in place.
  4. Lean-in movements: Lean into the ball with your hand behind your pelvis, making small up-and-down or side-to-side movements.
Standing Warm Up
Finding the Knots
Crossing Arm
Crossing Arm
Side Body

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Gentle Yoga & Ball Rolling | Fridays @ 10am 

Deirdre Smith Asheville Yoga Center Instructor

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.