Jackie Lai demonstrates self-myofacial release.

Yoga for Runners: Self-myofacial release for tight hamstrings

By Jackie Lai

Let’s face it, life is hard on our bodies. You might have back pain, shoulder pain, tight hips, etc. If you are a triathlete like me, you can list more areas of discomfort!

Self-myofascial release helps you release the tension and pain in your body. It allows you to live pain free — and who doesn’t want to be pain free?

In short, self-myofacial release involves using props to apply gentle pressure to restricted tissues to reduce pain and tension and restore full range of motion.

The best part about self myofascial release is you can do it anytime, anywhere!

Our bodies need to be strong and mobile. (Notice I did not say flexible. Society has made us believe we need to touch our toes or do the splits whenever we see the words yoga and flexibility . Trust me, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TOUCH YOUR TOES TO PRACTICE YOGA!)

I went on a tangent there for a bit. Let’s get back to self-myofascial release.

Fascia is like a fluid web, the scaffolding of your body. It has a tensile strength of up to 2,000 lbs per square inch. That’s pretty strong!

One way to rehydrate fascia is through compression. This is where we place a ball underneath the tissue and gently put pressure on it.

If we use a hard ball or try to dig deep, our body will tense up. When you tense up, your body cannot relax. Self-myofascial release is most effective when your body is relaxed.

Here’s how you can use self-myofacial release for tight hamstrings:

  • Get into a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Place a myofacial release ball under one leg, just above the crease in your knee. Avoid bones, bruises and cuts. If you don’t have a myofacial release ball you can use a massage ball or tennis ball. Hard balls like lacrosse balls are less effective. You may choose to use two balls.
  • Gently lean forward and sit in stillness for a few breaths.
  • Gently roll the ball up the bottom of your leg toward your glute, taking time to sit in stillness for a few breaths after repositioning the ball.

While digging deep may feel good in the moment, the benefit is only short term. For long-term gain, focus on being softer and less intense.

If sitting does not feel good, try this while lying on your back. You can place the ball under one leg and cross the other leg over to apply pressure. For more pressure, place the myofacial release ball on a yoga block or other raised item like a book.

Here is a video demonstration of how to do a self-myofascial release for your hamstrings!: https://youtu.be/j9KO3u1Yb4s 


Yoga for Runners is a recurring series appearing on the Brainsport blog. Check out our previous articles below:

Jackie Lai is a registered yoga instructor, certified yoga sport coach and triathlon coach based in Saskatoon. Learn more at jackielai.ca.