Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

Tight IT Bands

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To,Yoga Strap by Harmony on February 4, 2011

Tight IT Bands are a frequent concern of runners.  Try this stretch using a rope or Yoga Strap or your could relieve the tightness by using a Foam Roller as well.

Relieve Your Tight Iliotibial Band

Add this active-isolated stretch to lengthen the ITB without causing harm.

By Jim and Phil Wharton  / Image by Asaf HanukaPublished 03/08/2007 (from Runners World)

Along with calloused feet and a tolerance for Gu, runners tend to develop tight iliotibial bands (ITB). The ITB is a sheath of connective tissue that runs from the gluteus to the outside of the shin just below the knee. It helps extend the knee and stabilize the leg during running. Overuse and inflexibility can shorten the ITB, causing hip and knee pain. Many runners attempt to counteract this with the ITB stretch shown here. But because it stresses the leg and back muscles, this stretch has the opposite effect. The ITB and surrounding muscles tighten against this pressure, irritating these areas. Our “active-isolated” method (below) allows you to lengthen the ITB without causing additional harm.

Don’t Do This

Leaning forward (for a greater stretch) stresses the lower back and groin muscles.

The forced muscle contraction stresses the hip and knee joints, which impedes circulation.

The angle of the knee puts pressure on the patellar tendon of the kneecap and the quadriceps.

Do This

Lie down with both legs out straight.

Put one foot in the loop of a rope, positioning the rope between your heel and the ball of your foot. Wrap the rope around the outside of the ankle so that its ends are on the inside.

Contract your adductors (inner thigh), and sweep the leg across your body, passing just above the other leg. Keep your knee locked.

Once you feel tension on the leg, gently pull on the rope to extend the range of the stretch just a little more.

Hold for one or two seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Adductor (inner thigh) muscles are activated, which relaxes the opposing muscle group.

Abductor (outer thigh) muscles ease into the stretch instead of being forced and held in a static position.

Back and neck are supported and relaxed.


Exercises on a Half Foam Roller : Part 2

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on December 3, 2010

The following half-round foam roller exercises were provided by J/Fit – the manufacturer of our 12″ Half Round Roller and our 36″ Half Round Roller. The half-round rollers are made of a dense “open cell” foam and are available in either red or white (depending on availability). Our round foam rollers are a high-density closed cell foam.

When performing the following, place the half round roller lengthwise with your foot or hand and place the curved side of the roller to the floor. The rocking action, that you will counteract muscularly, will be side to side.

Exercise #1 : Standing Balance

Start by balancing one foot on a half-round foam roller. Lift opposite leg so that your toes barely touch the floor. As balance progresses, lift one leg higher taking the toes off the floor. Further progress into squats with one leg.

Exercise #2 : Reverse Lunges

Start in a standing position with left foot on half-round roller. Bend both knees at a 90-degree angle, keeping your hips towards the floor. Take a step backward and lower the knee towards the floor. Return to start. Do 8-12 reps and switch to right leg.

Exercise #3 : Push Ups

Get into a push-up position, placing one or both hands lengthwise on the half-round foam roller. (One hand at a time for beginners). With your head remaining neutral, slowly lower elbows out to 90-degrees and slowly lower yourself down to the floor.
Beginners: Keep knees touching the floor.
Advanced: Keep knees off the floor.

Balance Exercises – Foam Roller & Half Round Roller (Part II)

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on November 12, 2010

Four more great exercises to do on either a full round foam roller or a half round foam roller.  Choose between the 18″ Foam Roller, a 36″ Foam Roller, or an 36″ Half Round Roller.  The full round rollers are made of a high density foam construction so they’ll keep their round shape longer so they’ll continue to roll and offer you the challenge you’re looking for.  Please note that some exercises require two foam rollers to place individually under your feet or under hands & knees, etc.

Click here for the first four exercises that were presented  in Part 1.

Balance and Stability on the Foam Roller: Part 2

Created Apr 7 2009 – 14:43

There are many different and challenging balance and stability exercises that can be performed on the foam roller. As we discussed in my previous post, the half foam roller can be used with the flat side up or down as a starting point. You may progress to the full round roller when mastery of the half roller has been accomplished.

Please also take note of the following general principles when training balance and stability.

  • First, whenever possible train without shoes.  There are many receptors in the feet that give feedback to the nervous system about joint position.
  • Always engage the abdominals and the rest of your core musculature while doing these exercises.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable doing all the exercises on a stable surface (the floor) before you do them on the roller.


  • Place the foam roller parallel to your mat.
  • Sit at the end of the roller with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor.
  • Use the hands to carefully guide you onto your back.
  • You should be balanced and supported on the roller from the head to the tail.
  • Try to find your center and hold onto it during the exercise.
  • To start, inhale and hover the left hand and right foot off the floor a few inches.
  • Exhale and slowly decelerate them back down to the floor.
  • If taking both the hand and foot off proves too difficult just take one off at a time.
  • Inhale hover the right hand.
  • Exhale slowly lower the right hand. Inhale lift the left foot.
  • Exhale lower the left foot.
  • Change sides.

After you have mastered the hovering move on.

  • To start inhale and just hover the left hand and right foot off the floor a few inches.
  • Exhale and slowly bring the left wrist in line with the shoulder and the right leg into a table top position (at the top the knee is over the hip and the knee and ankle are aligned)
  • Hold inhale.
  • Exhale and slowly decelerate everything down.
  • Again, If taking both the arm and leg off at the same time proves too difficult try taking one at a time off.
  • Inhale slowly bring the left leg into table top.
  • Exhale slowly lower the leg back to the starting position.
  • Inhale hover the right arm off the floor.
  • Exhale slowly decelerate it back down.
  • Change sides.


  • Place the foam roller perpendicular to your mat and sit in front of it.
  • Lie down on your back and place the roller under your feet.
  • The roller should be at the arch of the foot.
  • The feet should be hip distance apart and parallel.
  • Eyes are to the ceiling and the arms are beside the body.
  • Exhale and start to peel the spine off the floor starting at the tailbone.
  • The roller should stay still as you roll up.
  • Stop at the top of the shoulders.
  • Make sure there is no weight on the neck.
  • Hold and inhale.
  • Exhale and slowly start to peel down again from the top of the spine until you return to the starting position.

To add on hold the position at the top and try to float one foot a few inches off the roller and set it back down.

  • As you lift the foot no change should occur in the spine and pelvis.
  • Change feet and when finished slowly roll down.

To advance even more you can hold at the top, float one foot up and extend the leg out at an angle or up to the ceiling.

  • Again, the spine and pelvis should remain the same as you extend the leg.
  • Gently bring the leg back down and change sides.
  • When finished slowly roll down.

Place a sticky mat and a half foam roller on top and parallel to the mat a few feet from the wall. You want it close enough to the wall that if needed the fingertips can touch and help steady you. First try this balance exercise with the flat side down and then progress to the flat side up.

  • Carefully stand with one foot in front of the other.
  • Hold the position with the legs long and arms hanging by your sides, extended out to the sides or extended out in front of you.

Add a squat.

  • Keeping your center inhale, bend the knees and come into a squat position on the tightrope.
  • The back heel may lift a bit.
  • Exhale and slowly extend back up.
  • Do 2 to 4 reps.
  • Gently come off and change sides.
  • Don’t be surprised if one side is easier than the other.

Place a sticky mat and two half foam rollers one beside the other about hip distance apart on the mat.
Have a wall nearby or a gondola pole to help steady you as you step onto the half foam rollers and find your center.
Eventually you want to be able to do the balance without the wall or pole.

  • Hold this position with straight legs and eyes to the horizon for 2 to 4 breath cycles.
  • To advance you can add arm movement.
  • Keep the body upright and centered, inhale and slowly sweep the arms up to shoulder level.
  • Exhale and slowly bring the arms back to your side.
  • Try to do 4-6 reps keeping optimal form and balance.
  • To add on further add a squat.
  • Inhale, bend the knees and hinge the torso slightly forward.
  • Exhale, press into the feet and slowly stand up.
  • Do 4-6 reps.
  • To add on here, hold the squat for 20 to 30 seconds with optimal form and balance.
  • Gently return to straight legs.

Balance Exercises – Foam Roller or Half Round Foam Roller (Part I)

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on November 5, 2010

Part one of two posts on performing balance exercises using a full round foam roller or a half round foam roller.  Beginners may wish to start with a half round and then progress into the full round after building strength and improving balance.  Choose between the 18″ Round Foam Roller or the 36″ Round Foam Roller.  Enjoy the first four exercises and all of their variations and then come back next week for Part Two.

Balance and Stability Exercises on the Foam Roller: Part 1

Created Mar 31 2009 – 14:41

One of the best ways to grow old with grace, keep us agile and prevent falls is to practice balance and stability exercises.   Working on balance and stability can help us maintain optimal alignment and balanced musculature.  One of the best ways to do this is on our Foam Roller!  If you find using a regular foam roller is too challenging or you feel that it is not safe try starting off with a half foam roller which will provide more stability.  The half foam rollers are flat underneath and round at the top so balance isn’t as challenging.  For many of these exercises, it is an excellent idea to have a wall near by to help you balance.  Start by putting as much pressure as you need with the hands on the wall.  As you get more experienced with the balance exercises you can start to lighten your touch and one day take the hands all the way off!

For more stability have a sticky mat under your foam roller.

  • Stand facing the wall.
  • The foam roller should be in front of you parallel to the wall.
  • Place your fingertips on the wall to balance and carefully step on the roller one foot at a time.
  • The arch of your foot should be on the roller.
  • Hold for 3 to 4 breath cycles trying to equalize your weight and find your center .
  • Eventually with both feet on the roller you want to lighten your touch on the wall until you no longer need the support.

Now add on:

  • Add squats on the foam roller.
  • Use the fingertips on the wall again to help you balance.
  • Inhale and bend the knees so the kneecap is pointing towards the wall.  Don’t bend so deeply that the knees jut past the toes.
  • Make sure the eyes stay at the horizon and the chest stays open.
  • NO slumping.
  • Exhale and slowly rise back up straightening the legs.

Now add on:

  • To add on you can try to float one foot up at a time.
  • Please use your light touch on the wall to help you balance.
  • Be sure that you are not slumping or collapsing into your standing leg.
  • You should imagine your standing leg as a very straight, sturdy tree trunk.
  • Start this exercise by just floating the foot a few inches off the foam roller.
  • When you become more adept bring the knee higher.

For more stability, place a sticky mat under your foam roller.

  • Stand facing the wall.
  • The foam roller should be in front of you parallel to the wall.
  • Place your fingertips on the wall to balance and carefully step your right foot onto the foam roller.
  • Scoot your left foot back so you are able to come into a lunge position.
  • You should be on the ball of the back foot with the heel lifted.
  • Make sure the feet are not one behind the other but that there is space between the feet like they are on railroad tracks.
  • When beginning this exercise keep the fingers on the wall and hold for 3 to 4 breath cycles before you change sides.
  • Once you become more experienced try to lighten the hands, take them off the wall and ultimately (very advanced) bring the straight arms up beside the face with the fingertips pointing to the ceiling.

Now add on:

  • To add on you can try to keep the roller still while  lengthening and bending the front leg.
  • Again, it’s best when you begin this exercise to keep the fingers on the wall.
  • When you become more adept you can try taking the hands off and lifting the arms above the head.  (very advanced!!)

For more stability, place a sticky mat under your foam roller.  The foam roller should be perpendicular to your mat.

  • Start on your knees in front of your foam roller.
  • Place the hands a bit wider than shoulder distance apart.
  • Depending on what feels best for the wrist, the fingers can be pointing to the front or they can be angled in towards each other just a bit.
  • Inhale and start to bring the straight legs behind you, the hips should stay down and you should be pushing away from the roller so that the shoulder blades stay apart.
  • In this straight plank position do 3 to 4 breath cycles.
  • Gently release and sit into a child’s pose to rest.

Now add on:

  • To add on:  come back into the plank position.
  • Inhale and bend the elbows out to the sides of the room.
  • The bend should be small and there should be no changes in the position of the head, spine , pelvis or legs.
  • Exhale and slowly rise back into the starting position.
  • Do 3 to 4 reps and then rest back into child’s pose.

For this one you need two regular sized foam rollers (*Note: consider 18″-36″ rollers, depending on the width of your shoulders and hips as this is the distance you will be resting your hands/knees).  This exercise will have the most balance challenge so it is a good idea to use a sticky mat under your rollers and consider using half foam rollers to make the exercise more doable.

  • Place two foam rollers down one in front of the other, perpendicular to the mat.
  • Start kneeling behind your two foam rollers.
  • Place one knee at a time on the roller closest to you.
  • Make sure the knees are just hip distance apart.
  • Place the hands one at a time on the front roller.
  • Make sure the hands are only shoulder distance apart.
  • Holding a neutral spine and pelvis take 2 to 3 breath cycles.
  • To add on:  try lifting one leg at a time and then one arm at a time trying to keep your balance and the squared position of your hips and shoulders.
  • To advance even more:  try lifting one leg and the opposite arm while keeping your balance and squared position of your hips and shoulders.

Join us next time for Part Two of Balance and Stability on the Foam roller.

Pilates : Targeting Serratus Muscles with a Foam Roller

Posted in Foam Roller,How-To,Pilates by Harmony on November 4, 2010

The serratus exercise in this video helps to work the serratus muscle which runs from the ribcage to the back.  A short 1 1/2 minute video to strengthen and stabilize the core.

Find your 36″ Foam Roller here.  These are high density foam rollers that will maintain their resiliency and shape for a longer period of time as compared to the white open-cell foam rollers also available on the market.

Exercises on a Half Foam Roller

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on October 22, 2010

Half round foam rollers are a great way for beginners to begin incorporating balance and stability exercises into their workouts.  Depending on the exercise itself, you could either place the flat side or the rounded side to the floor.  The flat side to the floor is the most stable position.

Here are just three exercises you could do with a Half Round Foam Roller.  When performing exercises with a roller under your spine or stomach lengthwise, a 36″ half round foam roller would be best.  In others, when you are placing a roller under your hands or feet, you could use one or two 12″ half round foam rollers.

Exercise #1

Lie on your back on the foam roller so that the foam roller is under your spine with both your sacrum and head resting on the roller.  Knees bent.  Slowly lift one knee, hold, and return the sole of the foot to the floor and raise the opposite knee.  The closer your feet are to the midline of your body, the more challenging the balance exercise.  Start with arms extended in a T-position with fingertips on the floor for balance, and advance to putting hands on your hips and using your core to keep from rolling side to side.

Exercise #2

Lie flat on your back and rest your feet on the foam roller, legs bent at the knees. Keep the hands at your sides. Now slowly lift your back and hips off the floor forming a bridge. Stay in this arched position for a few seconds and relax. Perform 5-8 reps.

Exercise #3

This is a leg extension exercise using a foam roller. Just lie on your stomach. Place the foam roller under your stomach. Start by lifting your legs upward, extending them straight, toes pointed. You can perform this exercise by extending one leg at a time and then alternating. Perform 10 repetitions with each leg.

Pilates : The Swan with Foam Roller

Posted in Foam Roller,How-To,Pilates by Harmony on October 21, 2010

Here’s how you can do the Pilates move called the “Swan” while using a foam roller.

There are several kinds of Foam Rollers that you can find in our store – 18″ vs 36″, and textured or non-textured. Currently we only sell high density foam rollers because they are more durable and hold their shape longer.  You can find our selection of Foam Rollers on our Fitness Page.  These items are very versatile and can be incorporated into a variety of both Pilates and general fitness exercises.

Foam Roller Exercises for Upper Body

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on September 17, 2010

A High Density Foam Roller will hold it’s shape for a longer period of time than the open-cell foam rollers available on the market.  This will allow you to continue using your roller for a longer period of time with the same amount of support and resistance.  We offer two sizes of high density foam rollers – a 36″ foam roller and an 18″ foam roller.

Foam Roller Exercise – Upper Back

by Elizabeth Quinn

Foam Roller Exercise - Upper Back
Foam Roller Exercise – Upper Back

Photo � E. Quinn

Use a foam roller to massage and release the muscles of the upper back (the trapezius and rhomboids) by positioning the foam roller beneath your shoulder blades. Support your head with your hands and keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Use your feet to control your motion and pressure and start rolling toward your head, pausing at any sore spots. Roll back down to the mid-back and repeat.

Foam Roller Arm Exercise – Latissimus Dorsi, Triceps, Teres Major

Foam Roller Exercise - Latissimus Dorsi, Triceps, Teres Major
Foam Roller Exercise – Latissimus Dorsi, Triceps, Teres Major

Photo � E. Quinn

Another hot spot for trigger points and muscle tightness is the shoulder and back, just under the armpit. This is a spot where a variety of muscles all converge as they connect from the back and shoulder blade to the upper arm (humerous).

Use the foam roller to work the latissimus dorsi, teres major and the triceps by lying on your side, with your arm outstretched and the roller positioned under your armpit (just at base of the shoulder blade).

Roll upward, toward the armpit, pausing at any sore spots. Roll back down and repeat. This exercise can take some practice and experimentation to find exactly the right muscles. Take your time and go slow.

Foam Roller Exercises for the Legs

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on September 10, 2010

Follow along with the follow exercises with your own foam roller – available as a 36″ high density foam roller or an 18″ high density foam roller.

Foam Roller Exercise – Glutes and Hamstrings

by Elizabeth Quinn

Foam Roller Exercise - Hamstrings
Foam Roller Exercise – Hamstrings

Photo � E. Quinn

To work your glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back of the thighs) start by sitting on the roller with the soft, meaty part of your buttock directly on top of the roller. Begin slowly rolling back and forth and slightly side to side to release any tight sports in the muscle.

Slowly roll down your leg toward your knee and work the hamstrings in the same way  (pictured above). Change your position from side to side to work the entire muscle. Slowly roll from the buttock down to the knee pausing on any tight or sore spots.

Increase or decrease pressure by using one or both legs at a time. Roll with your feet turned in and out to cover the entire muscle group.

Foam Roller Exercise – Quads

Foam Roller Exercise -  Quadriceps
Foam Roller Exercise – Quadriceps

Photo � E. Quinn

Releasing your quadriceps (quads) is one of the easiest foam roller exercises. Simply lay on top of the roller using your hands for balance and work the front of the thigh from the hip down to the knee. You can perform this exercise with one or both legs on the roller, depending upon how much pressure you can handle or desire. If you want less pressure, keep one leg off the roller and use the foot to support some of your body weight.

Foam Roller Exercise – IT Band

Foam Roller Exercise - IT Band
Foam Roller Exercise – IT Band

Photo � E. Quinn

Using the foam roller on the IT band can be painful, but many people find it’s one of the most useful stretches you will do with the foam roller.

Lie on the roller on your side, with the roller positioned just below the hip. Your top leg can be in line with the bottom leg if you want a lot of pressure. Or, bend it in front of you to unload some of your body weight and provide better balance.

Use your hands for support and roll from the hip down to your knee, pausing on any tight or sore spots. Repeat on the your other side.

Foam Roller Exercise – Calves

Foam Roller Exercise - Calves
Foam Roller Exercise – Calves

Photo � E. Quinn

Position the roller under the calves. Using your hands for support, slowly roll from the knee down to the ankle pausing on any tight or sore spots.

Roll with your feet turned in and out. Keep toes flexed and pointed to work the entire muscle group.

Increase or decrease pressure by using one or both legs at a time, or placing one leg on the other for even more pressure.

Massage and Release with Foam Rollers

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on September 3, 2010

Foam Rollers are available at our store – available as a 36″ high density foam roller or an 18″ high density foam roller.  The next few weeks will cover a number of exercises for these versatile rollers.  Foam Rollers can be used to release tension and overworked muscles or also as a prop to add challenge to your fitness, Yoga, or Pilates routines.

Foam Rollers for Myofascial Release and Massaging Tight Muscles

by Elizabeth Quinn

Use a Foam Roller
Photo � E. Quinn

Foam rollers offer many of the same benefits as a sports massage, without the big price tag.

The foam roller not only stretches muscles and tendons but it also breaks down soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. By using your own body weight and a cylindrical foam roller you can perform a self-massage or myofascial release, break up trigger points, and soothe tight fascia while increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues.

How It Works

The superficial fascia is a soft connective tissue located just below the skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the myofascia system. For various reasons including disuse, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it results in restricted muscle movement. It also causes pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion.

Myofascial release is a body work technique in which a practitioner uses gentle, sustained pressure on the soft tissues while applying traction to the fascia. This technique results in softening and lengthening (release) of the fascia and breaking down scar tissue or adhesions between skin, muscles and bones.

Myofascial release has also been shown to relieve various muscle and joint pains such as IT band syndrome and shin splints as well as improving flexibility and range of motion.

Foam rollers are inexpensive and with a bit of experimentation you can target just about any muscle group.

How to Use a Foam Roller for Myofascial Release

Using a foam roller is simple, but working some areas may take a bit of practice and some body contortion. You start by finding a relatively open area with some floor space. Position your body with the area you want to work on top of the foam roller. Your body weight creates the pressure that massages and releases tight spots in the fascia. You control the pressure by applying more or less body weight on the foam roller and using your hands and feet to offset your weight as needed. It’s helpful to try a variety of positions and see what works best for you.

Tips for Using a Foam Roller

* Always check with your doctor before using a foam roller for myofascial release.

* Perform foam roller sessions when your muscles are warm or after a workout.

* Position the roller under the soft tissue area you want to release or loosen.

* Gently roll your body weight back and forth across the roller while targeting the affected muscle.

* Move slowly and work from the center of the body out toward your extremities.

* If you find a particularly painful area (trigger point), hold that position until the area softens.

* Focus on areas that are tight or have reduced range of motion.

* Roll over each area a few times until you feel it relax. Expect some discomfort. It may feel very tender or bruised at first.

* Stay on soft tissue and avoid rolling directly over bone or joints.

* Keep your first few foam roller sessions short. About 15 minutes is all you need.

* Rest a day between sessions when you start.

* Drink plenty of water after a session, just as you would after a sports massage.

* After a few weeks you can increase your session time and frequency if you choose.

* Do not use a foam roller without your physician’s approval if your have any heart or vascular illness or a chronic pain condition.

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