"Body is not stiff, mind is stiff."
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
I have ridiculously tight hamstrings. Like, "can barely touch my toes on a good day" tight. I dream of one day having my heels touch the mat during downward dog. However, until that day, I am doing what I can to increase my flexibility and softly stretch my tight muscles.
Thankfully, one of my favorite tricks can be easily done at home for a few minutes everyday with some amazing results! All you need? A tennis ball!
Before beginning, I like to stretch down to see how far I can reach so I can compare afterwards and to measure my progress over time. I've found that even after only one session, I can gain a few inches of reach.
Standing up tall, start by rolling the tennis ball under your feet with moderate pressure. If you have trouble keeping your balance, stand close to a wall so you can use it as a prop. Make sure to massage from the front to the back of your foot, including under your toes. After you have done one foot for a minimum of 2 minutes, switch to the other foot. It is as easy as that!
This technique is wonderful for people who are on their feet all day. Do this when you get home after a long day and feel all that tension melt away! (It seems to work faster than attempting to subtly imply to your significant other that you would appreciate a foot massage. I may be known to attempt this technique with varying success: *cough... cough... foot sneaks onto lap... "Whoops... well since it is there, do you mind getting me a foot rub, please?"*)
Try using this technique once a day. I usually do it every morning along with my usual yoga routine. See where it fits best into your schedule. You could even keep a tennis ball under your desk to do this at work!
Make sure to listen to your body. It is possible to hurt yourself by overdoing it, so pay attention to pressure and time.
A little tip from personal experience: keep your tennis ball in a drawer so it doesn't get covered in dog slobber! Yuck!
Do you have tight hamstrings too? Have you used this trick before? Happy stretching!