I like to use props, particularly a roller, in my yoga practice and lately I have been using a very light weight foam roller. They can be purchased at very reasonable prices from a number of companies that have websites. I purchased a batch of them over a year ago, cut them to a convenient size, and use a number of different sizes myself and give some away to my clients if I think they can understand and get something out of their use. These foam rollers are very light weight which can be an advantage in moving them around with ease. They are also quite firm and strong and do a good job stretching, massaging, and manipulating the spine and back.
Using a prop, like a roller, in yoga is perhaps most advisable for those of us over 40 years old. A good size roller delivers a very effective stretch and manipulation but also gives support and allows for that sense of surrender and release we seek in our more mature practice. We learn to surrender to the tool, to the position, to gravity, and let our own body weight work for us . Use a minimum of strength and force. Sense the ease and flow in this process. Press, roll, stretch, lengthen, relax, surrender. This is much more than an exercise; this is better than exercise. This is therapy, natural, pleasurable, easy, and giving yourself what you really need. This is using your body wisely, maturely, and promoting health and well-being. This is better and smarter than exercise.
Roller under the hips. Let your body and spine sink towards the floor. Release. Relax. This is an inversion and spinal traction technique. it gently opens the spaces between the spinal vertebrae. Rock from side to side to enhance the traction along different areas of the spine.
Knees to chest. Let gravity do the work and be the force. Feel some stretch and lengthening in the pelvis and into the lower back. Gravity and your own body weight provide the necessary effect. Surrender to these forces as the roller gives support underneath.
Legs are held up with a roller supporting the hips. Like a shoulder stand without the strain on the neck and without exertion of your muscles. Reverses circulation in the legs and increases blood flow into the abdomen. Little effort is expended. Much benefit is gained. What more could you want?
Drape your body over the roller placed at the hips. Let go. Feel the hip flexors get a very nice, deep stretch. These muscles have a major role to play in creating posture and, to a large extent, affect the health of the organs in your lower abdomen. Hip flexors too often get tight and short, and this is a good remedy for that condition.
Press and roll the lower ribs in back. The diaphragm attaches around this area and the diaphragm muscle gets tight and short. Roll any ache and stiffness out of the lower rib cage and notice how the breathing opens, deepens, becomes freer and easier.
Support the head with the foam roller and then stretch into your groin and pelvis as shown. Or massage between the neck vertebrae with the roller. Nerves centers that stress the heart are located in the neck and opening those cervical vertebral spaces helps relax and release the heart.