Will these hot new bodywork classes make you stretch more?

More people are skipping the massage table and the old tennis ball trick for group bodywork classes that tackle tight muscles and poor posture.
Equinox’s RX Series uses therapy balls that can get into the tiny spaces that foam rollers can’t.

In the modern world, even the healthiest of humans are walking around with poor posture and skewed alignment. Thank hours of laptop hunching, purses you could deadlift, and tough workout classes that stress, but don’t stretch, your muscles.

Increasingly, for relief and realignment, more people are skipping the massage table and turning to self bodywork classes that use balls, rollers, and other props to address muscles and the fascia (soft, connective tissue) that surrounds them.

Equinox rolled out a series of self bodywork classes called the Rx Series this summer, Wanderlust Vermont included Soma System classes for the first time this June, and the MELT Method has been holding workshops all over New York and was recently featured on Dr. Oz. Kula Yoga’s Release The Beast class is constantly packed.

“Everyone is walking around with some sort of ache or pain,” says Los Angeles-based Jill Miller, the founder of Yoga Tune Up who designed the Rx Series for Equinox. “People are desperate for it.”

Miller says that the classes she designed, which follow a nine-step sequence with grippy rubber therapy balls, can eliminate pain, improve posture, and enhance performance, whether you’re an elite athlete or just a gym-goer. There are 12 different classes that each target specific parts of the body. “Body blind-spots are catalysts for injury down the road,” Miller explains.

David Vendetti
David Vendetti teaches a Soma System class at Kula Yoga in New York with Roman Torgovitsky.

In a recent sample class, for instance, Miller led us through a hips and butt sequence that involved rolling out specific glute muscles and IT bands. The pain was grimace-inducing, but after, I could feel the change in my mobility and alignment much more than when I mindlessly move around on my foam roller in front of the TV.

There’s a reason for that, says David Vendetti, the co-founder of South Boston Yoga and a structural integration bodyworker who’s now teaching jam-packed Soma System classes at Wanderlust yoga music-festivals. (The Soma System uses a collection of props and involves myofascial release, trigger point therapy, and meditation.)

“The tools have been made to fit a sequence, and just like a good yoga class, it needs to be intelligently sequenced,” Vendetti says. “You release a certain part of the body in a certain order, so you’re not just increasing the circulation but you’re actually bringing the body into better posture.”

So rolling your IT band over and over will simply increase circulation, he says, while releasing your TFL (a thigh muscle), glute medius, and glute maximus first, in that order, will prep the IT band to respond in a way that will create more lasting change.

This aspect of self bodywork is important to the popularity of group classes, because otherwise, we could all just roll around on tennis balls or foam rollers while catching up on Veep episodes. After all, what busy New Yorker wants to make time for yet another class, and one that isn’t blood-pumping like boot camp or spirit-grounding like yoga?

Vendetti says his students have come to see the classes as just one more component of their holistic wellness schedule. Weight training Monday, cardio Tuesday, yoga Wednesday, self bodywork Thursday?

“This is like flossing your teeth, it’s just a basic thing you have to do for your health,” says Miller. “This is about making better choices for your body so you live better and move better and get more out of life pain-free.” —Lisa Elaine Held

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