What's the right kind of roller?

Soft or Hard?

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Here’s a Recently Asked Question from my email inbox:

What is your take on the kind of foam rollers to use? 

Soft vs. hard? 

I’m asking because, from all the FIs I've received or learned and from what I saw at the Guild conference last summer, it seems there is more use of soft rollers, especially these days.

I only own hard rollers.

Should I buy soft ones?

An answer for your consideration:

Interesting. What you noticed reinforces what I've observed, which is that foam rollers are being relegated to—if you’ll pardon the pun— a supporting role.

There are, of course, ingenious ATM® lessons that use a rolled up blanket or soft roller. As such this support serves as a means for changing the height of only part of the surface someone is lying or sitting on. This uneven support becomes a gentle challenge, an unfamiliar terrain to move around and adapt to over the course of the lesson. (All these ATMs could as easily be done with some kind of firm cushion.)

If you'll excuse me for being a bit blunt, other than being a convenient form for a pillow or padding, soft rollers are pretty much useless. They lose their shape, don't provide sufficient support or structure, why, heck, they don't even roll.

On the other hand, firm rollers, whether made of foam, plastic, or cardboard, do not make the best bolsters. Consider a student who is lying supine on a table at the start of an FI®. Placing an unyielding cylinder behind someone’s knees is ill-advised. That’s because it can impede circulation, causing the student’s lower legs and feet to “fall asleep,” creating unnecessary discomfort. If you only have rigid rollers around, be considerate and kindly wrap each in a towel or blanket first. (That is unless you don't want the student to return . . . )

It is the very hardness of rollers that we harness in the lessons that revolve around them. Not one of the roller lessons Moshe created – and none of the six FIs or any of the ATMs in the three Reclaiming Rollers modules of the MASTERING THE METHOD postgraduate program – uses soft rollers.

What are the advantages of a hard roller?

By keeping its shape, a firm roller interferes with motion and asks the student to adapt by conforming to its shape. The roller can also act as a wheel, facilitating motion.

MTM-10-Lindy-on-a-Roller-WAHACTB-Boston.JPGIn the FI we’ve named We all have a cross to bear, the student lies supine over a medium sized roller across the table and behind the chest, just below the shoulder blades. At the beginning of the lesson, the student usually requires a “tower of pads” behind the head to be comfortable. The teacher finds the easy action of the chest, spine, pelvis, and legs below the roller, then does the same with the upper chest, shoulders, neck, and head above, and, finally, finds ways to connect the actions above and below. As the lesson continues, it becomes increasingly easier for the student’s head to hang backwards.

In Lying lengthwise, the solid cylinder the student rests on (from head to pelvis) transforms the static tabletop into a dynamic platform. The student is asked to remain on the roller while the teacher gently and oh-so-slowly moves the student’s legs then arms, one after the other, then the head, and, finally, perhaps, to roll the roller. Responding to shifts in weight and finding equilibrium, the student stays engaged, alert, and curious. Moving the vertebral column along the roller, creates an indelible impression of the midline.

The roller behind the student’s neck in The Neck Pillow first minimizes and then multiplies movement. All the way through the FI, the teacher touches only the roller or the student’s head, neck, and shoulders, making it the top-down mirror of the classic Artificial Floor strategy. The FI unfolds as the teacher carefully identifies, shifts, tracks, and clarifies the transmission of force from the student’s head and neck through the chest and spine, eventually reaching all the way to the pelvis. Exploring the precise connections of the cervical spine and head to the trunk reveals and relieves habitual patterns of contraction, uncovering new ways of moving and breathing.

Even though I have not addressed using hard rollers in ATMs, I hope I’ve given you enough info for you to understand why I say:

  • Keep your hard rollers.
  • Learn how these amazing assets will transform the individual lessons and classes you give.
  • Find out how rollers can make homework enticing and fun.
  • Spend more time with rollers yourself.


One more thing. I am moved to note that, once again, I’m inspired by Moshe's ingenuity and grateful for this marvelous methodology he left for us to use, share, and develop.

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