Danielle is yogalila's ball guru. Danielle's ball collection includes the red Yamuna ball, yellow Yamuna ball, green Yamuna ball, small gertie balls, Yamuna foot wakers and Yamuna foot savers. She has written up a great summary of her experience with ball work including all her resource links:
My journey into the world of balls began with a ball therapy workshop given by my yoga teacher. The description of the workshop was "relaxation and body alignment are invited through restful easy movements done on 1 or 2 soft grapefruit-size balls while focusing on full breathing". It was three hours of heaven. The exercises in the workshop were based on methods developed by Elaine Petrone and inspired by the work of Eric Franklin.
Examples of Elaine Petrone’s exercises can be found in the following articles:
Beautify your body
On the ball: A new therapy for tension
No more back pain
5 tension-tamer stretches
Eric Franklin uses small balls for many exercises in his books Conditioning for Dance, Pelvic Power, and Relax Your Neck, Liberate Your Shoulders. His method is based on ideokinesis and draws from Body Mind Centering (Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen), the Zvi Gotheiner method and concepts from Integral Yoga. It uses lots of imagery. One of my favorite ways to use the balls come’s from Eric Franklin’s Conditioning for Dance, you put a ball under your neck, one between your shoulder blades and one under your sacrum sink your body weight into the balls and breathe, it’s wonderfully restorative!
Both Elaine Petrone and Eric Franklin sell balls through their website and Elaine’s balls are available with a small book called The Miracle Ball Method. In the workshop, we used gertie balls. The gertie balls aren’t as slippery on your skin as Petrone balls and are less expensive.
Next on my ball journey was Yamuna Body Rolling. I did a 2 hour session with my yoga teacher who was recently certified by Yamuna Zake. This was different from my previous ball experience. It was more like self massage. At times it was quite intense and even slightly uncomfortable, but afterwards I felt amazing!
Yamuna has several different balls. The yellow ball is 10” and the one to start with for those new to body rolling. It’s also the one to use for abdominal rolling. I like the yellow ball for back rolling. The red ball is 8” and harder than the yellow ball. Because the red ball is harder, it lets you sink more deeply into the muscles for more intense work. At this point, I only find the red ball comfortable for leg rolling, your mileage may vary of course. The green ball is 6” and the same hardness as the yellow ball. The green ball is great for chest and shoulder rolling. I also use it for ab rolling as it’s a better fit for me than the yellow ball. If you are under 5 ft tall Yamuna recommends the green ball for general use. Yamuna does caution to avoid rolling on the tailbone and floating ribs.
There are also calf balls, foot wakers and foot savers. The calf balls are smaller and harder than the green ball. The foot wakers are bigger than the foot savers and have bumps all over them. Yamuna recommends starting with the foot wakers and slowly building up to the foot savers. The foot wakers are especially good for plantar fascitis, the bumps all over them really wake up your feet.
Yamuna has 2 books and several DVDs to practice with. I prefer her Body Rolling: An Experiential Approach to Complete Muscle Release book. It is more technical with a lot of detail about anatomy. Yamuna's newer book Ultimate Body Rolling is more focused on appearance. Ultimate Body Rolling does have great photos and how to’s for the different body rolling routines and would be a great book to start with.
Before investing in the Yamuna balls, you can start and experiment with vinyl children's balls. Jen, for example, uses a variety of easily obtained balls. You won't get as deep a muscle release and if you weigh over 180 lbs the balls will bend out of shape and not provide any benefit. The Yamuna balls support up to 350 lbs.
Fitball’s Body Therapy Small Ball Release Program is quite similar to Yamuna Body Rolling. They have a manual, 5”, 6”, and 7” balls, and a total body DVD. Cheryl Soleway instructs the DVD and it is very well done. It is not as thorough as the Yamuna DVDs, but it would be a great way to try body rolling. The fitballs are textured which some people may prefer.
Self massage with tennis balls is another way to play with small balls. Personally, I don’t care for it as much as body rolling and the Petrone and Franklin ball exercises. Shiva Rea’s Drops of Nectar Yoga for Rejuvenation and Relaxation CD has a 15 minute track called The Secret Ball Society: Tension Release with Tennis Ball. Katherine Steadman has a Tennis Ball Therapy video that uses the principles of acupressure and reflexology. Marc Coseo’s book The Acupressure Warmup also uses tennis balls. Some more information on tennis ball massage can be found at Tennis ball back massage and Bodywork using balls.
Balls have become part of my everyday life. They’ve helped me to improve my body awareness, relax, and deepen my yoga practice.