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Shameem Akthar illustrates how the massage roller can be used as a prop and healing accessory

The latest prop in the market for both advanced students and beginners is the massage roller. Though modern-day materials are used to create it—Soft Foam or hard faux leather or hard foam—it borrows from acupressure massage rollers made from wood, seen widely in the traditional woodcraft of this country. These also surely belong to other Eastern countries where massage has originated, with emphasis on energy points and release of blockages. They have soft or raised projections that help knead energy points and release tight muscles. Even when you do not use them as yoga props, they weave their own healing magic as massage accessories.

If you are new to the massage roller, you may want to be cautious with it while trying challenging movements that require balance. Test it out gently by placing under the legs and rolling the heel of that stretched foot forward and backwards, so the roller kneads the back of the leg muscles. You can try this at the hips in a similar fashion. Using it to prop the chest up in poses like the fish will help you understand the back flexibility needed in such classic poses. As explained, the kneading effect of the massage roller is more intensely experienced if the roller is used under the part of the body that requires impact.

You can play around with the roller. If you find it difficult to control the roll, keep a cushion or a yoga block to prevent it from moving too far ahead. This may be particularly important for beginners. There are some precautions you must take while using these rollers. If you have an injured part of the body, do not use the roller there; it will inflame it further. Do not roll too fast. If it feels hard or painful, avoid running the roller there. Some of us have less padding in some parts, and that will set off nerves firing. Do not use directly on those spots where there is less flesh—it will feel extra sensitive. Massage in one spot for around 20 seconds or so only, even though it may feel tempting to extend the duration. Do not load the body weight on the roller; just prop it firmly.


UPWARD DOG (urdhvamukha svanasana)

Go on your fours, as in a cat stretch. Keep the roller under your body. Walk the feet a bit back, so as to rest the thighs on the rollers. Tuck toes into the ground. Firm your grip at the palms, straighten arms further. Look ahead. If the roller is high, you can even lift the toes off the floor. Initially gauge your control over the pose. If confident, roll backwards and forwards a few times, so the large muscles at the thighs feel kneaded gently. Instead of resting the thigh too hard on the roller, support yourself more firmly at the arms, just ensuring the thighs are firmly placed on the roller. Breathe normally throughout.
Benefits: This builds stamina and tones both the arms and legs powerfully. It impacts the voice box, keeping the voice young, and gently massages the thyroid at the throat. It also boosts immunity, helps intensify the challenge of balance, and impacts the mind powerfully in terms of impulse control.



Gandhari was the wife of Dhritarashtra, the blind king of Hastinapura, and the mother of the Kauravas. To share the debility of her husband, she wore a blindfold that deprived her of the power of sight. This game is named after her. The players are divided into teams of two—there should be at least five teams. One member of each team is blindfolded while the other must guide them with precise instructions from the beginning of a room with obstacles (such as chairs and other players) to the end. The moment the blindfolded person bumps into something or someone, they have to start again. The team that finishes first wins the race. This game encourages teamwork and improves coordination and the ability to listen to another person.

Shameem Akthar is a Mumbai-based yoga acharya. If you have any queries for her, mail us or email at (Please consult your physician before following the advice given here)

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
May 2017