Work from home set-up got you wondering when massage parlors will be declared essential services? There's truly no need to roll with it.
A foam roller—that portable device you might have picked up that one time you decided you could become a long-distance runner—could be the answer to your knotty prayers. "A lot of people don't really know what they can do with it. You know, they think they can roll their IT bands out and maybe do some physical therapy and stuff and some rehab," wellness educator Lauren Roxburgh tells E! News. "But the reality is, I look at the roller as your own in-home private masseuse and also your private Pilates teacher, personal trainer and yoga teacher because you can use it for so many things."
(Because after you're done relaxing your tight shoulders and back, you can use the instability of the roller as a Pilates reformer substitute, following some of Roxburgh's workouts here or on her Aligned Life Studio app.)
Her favorite use, though, is the one that has longtime client Gwyneth Paltrow raving about her services, dubbing the board certified Structural Integration practitioner "the body whisperer."
Because more often than not, when Roxburgh reaches for her foam roller, she's using it to "restore the connective tissue," she says, "flush the lymph system and also peel away the layers of stress and density and thickness." Read: Ditch the puffiness and deliver on the promises in her book, Taller, Slimmer, Younger.
The science of it all involves your body's fascia, or what experts are calling your sensory organ, "the webbing that wraps around our entire bodies like a matrix," says Roxburgh, existing in between the muscle and skin not unlike Saran Wrap. Age, injury, stress—got any of that these days?—causes it to become thicker and denser, in turn, making your muscles appear bulkier.
When you properly apply pressure via the roller, "It's like if you took a rolling pin to some dough," notes the body alignment pro. "You're kind of squeezing and wringing it out." (As an added bonus, the work is said to calm the nervous system and stimulate the release of serotonin and oxytocin. Yay, happiness!)
An altogether satisfying sounding process, it's what happens when a sure-handed masseuse targets the area that's been plaguing your upper back. "A knot is a piece of scar tissue, which is connective tissues that's been bound up from stress, trauma, tension, postural imbalances, emotional stuff," explains Roxburgh. "And so, essentially, that tissue becomes, instead of that nice cotton candy webbing, it actually becomes hard, thick and dense and it doesn't allow that blood flow."
The same idea applies to your muscles. When you use the foam roller properly, says Roxburgh, "You're basically peeling back those layers of thickness and density."
Or, as Paltrow raves, "It works with the fascia and targets pain, excess weight, and puffiness. It's an amazing tool to streamline your shape."
To start, make sure you have a medium-density roller that's firm, but not too hard as the benefits are tougher to come by when you see it as a cruel torture device. (Roxburgh's model has a memory foam-like texture and circular bumps for more massaging.)
Then set aside a few minutes before your normal training sessions to, you know, rock and roll. "You're going to have more flexibility, more range of motion. So you're going to get more out of your workouts," she says of using the tool as a warm-up. "And you're going to be able to build those longer, leaner muscles."
Roxburgh's site is chock full of movements and targeted programs that you can try, but she's shared her top moves to get you started in the video above. Devote just 10 or so minutes a day to practice and soon you'll be rolling in compliments.