The backbone is the hub of all physical and spiritual energies. As one of the first structures to develop in a mother’s womb, the spinal cord works with the nervous system to control all movements, interactions, and functions of the body. Spiritually speaking, the spine is the axis that aligns the body’s energy meridians and chakras.
For many, maintaining spine health may look like regular strength training, an occasional chiropractor visit, or a deep tissue massage. For others, it can look like a chakra-specific yoga practice, an energy-aligning meditation, or deep breathing to reduce tension.
Supporting both realms of spine health can be difficult. However, a simple but uniquely designed wooden back roller may solve this problem.
The MA (pronounced “mah”) Roller is a self-massage tool designed in the 1970s and based on the ancient methods of acupuncture. It beautifully unites deep tissue massage with energy stimulation along the spine. Renowned among those who’ve discovered this tool, the MA Roller and other similarly designed rollers are known for their diversity of uses: reducing back pain and tension, boosting energy, and providing relaxation for users.
How Does the Roller Work?
The magic is in the design. According to Oak Tree Physical Therapy, which sold the MA Roller, the broad and narrow parabolic curves of the wooden back roller naturally support a healthy backbone. These curves effectively massage and stimulate three major lines of energy that surround the spine.
The first line of energy exists within the spinal cord. This line serves as the axis for the human body, which contains the seven chakras and the sushumma energy channel. The central line is mostly involved with voluntary, conscious movements and functions.
The second and third lines of energy lie on either side of the spine and are connected to the autonomic nervous system. In acupuncture, these lines contain what are called the YU points of all internal organs. The YU points help regulate each organ and vital function throughout the body. These functions are involuntary and unconscious, always at work to ensure healthy functioning.
[Read: “Acupuncture: Bringing the Body Back into Balance.”]
These three lines work closely together to complete a circuit of energies throughout our entire body, both consciously and unconsciously. However, even healthy individuals experience tension and blockages throughout these circuits. The curved wooden back roller relieves tension and blockages along these lines, which restores a natural energy flow and improves vital functioning.
The final design element is found in the broadening curves at each end of the roller. These allow an open channel for external energy to flow throughout the tool and along the energy lines. This detail provides powerful spiritual and energetic benefits, channeled straight from the universe.
How to Use a MA-Type Roller
First and foremost, it’s important to cultivate a natural “feel” for the use of the roller, and to create an individual relationship with the tool. Intuition will guide you to know when, where, and how long you should use it.
This main method is most effective in experiencing maximum physical and spiritual benefits:
Step 1: Lie relaxed on a flat surface. Your feet should be planted on the floor with your knees bent.
Step 2: Center the roller at the base of your skull, with your hands cradled behind your head for support.
Step 3: Lightly push your body to help roll the tool down your neck until it is placed under the upper back. Make sure it is centrally positioned, so the spine passes through the central notch and the two curves are pressed into the muscles surrounding your spine. You may want to move slowly side-to-side to gauge how well the roller is positioned beneath your back.
Step 4: With your hands locked behind your head, continue slowly pushing your body headward with your legs. This will guide the roller down your spine. Seek out tender or pleasurable spots along the back and rest there until tension resides.
Step 5: Slowly move on to the lumbar spine and buttocks. Continue to rest the roller wherever you feel, and stay in this position for as long as necessary.
Remember to breathe deeply throughout the entire practice. Visualize your muscles releasing and energy channels opening with each exhalation. The idea is not so much to roll and move but to allow the roller to sink deeply into your muscles, and stimulate every point along your energy channels.
When to Use a Back Roller—and When Not To
Daily massages with a MA-style roller can be integrated into your routine or health practice. However, it is especially helpful when there is tension or low energy throughout the body or to target specific YU points associated with a troublesome area.
When first using this kind of roller, it’s important to begin with short sessions and work up to longer sessions. The longest recommended session is 45 minutes.
Note: These curved wooden rollers may be harmful for those who have any type of spinal injury. Furthermore, they should not be used during pregnancy. Otherwise, when using a MA-style roller, remain conscious throughout the entire practice; do not allow yourself to fall asleep while on it.
Other uses for the MA-style roller include:
- Rolling out thighs and calves on the roller’s wings
- Massaging feet while standing
- Using wings to massage quadriceps and hip flexors
- Gently massaging head and neck while sitting or standing
- Hammering gently on shoulders to massage and release tension from upper body and arms
These alternative methods focus more on the physical benefits of the roller, and should be practiced separately from stimulation of the spine.
What to Expect When Using the MA-Style Roller
According to Oak Tree Physical Therapy, immediate results often include relaxation, overall warmth, deeper breathing, or movement of abdominal contents as energy is brought into the internal organs.
Any tenderness is often the result of tension that needs to be released. As long as the tenderness is not due to spinal injury or inflammation, it’s important to relax into it and accept it with openness.
After regular use, tension gradually subsides and may turn into joy and overall positive energy. Sometimes, people may feel a subtle stir within their energetic body, as blocked energies begin to flow. There may be a powerful physical or emotional purging during or after use of a curved, wooden MA-style roller—part of the purifying process.
Enliven your back and wake up your spine with these postures.