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Simple Stress-Melting, Muscle-Relaxing Moves

Got a pain in the...back? You're in good company. Forty-five percent of women report aches in their upper or lower back, a poll shows (other achy areas include the neck and knees). For me, it's usually a sign that I need to de-stress, pronto. But while the pain is treatable, the stress can be hard to shake.

You don't need to pony up for a pro massage to undo your knots (though that certainly is wonderful!). Take matters into your own hands by doing these moves daily. They were created by Jill Miller, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles and creator of Yoga Tune Up, a program that uses balls to relieve muscle tension. To do them, use a pair of Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls ($10 per pair, or a pair of tennis balls or racquetballs.

Lower-back loosener
Lie faceup, knees bent, feet flat. Place balls under lower back, one on either side of spine. Lift upper body off floor, propping yourself on forearms. Keeping lower back on balls, raise hips and butt off floor. Roll lower back up and down over balls for up to two minutes.

Upper-back relaxer

Stand against wall. Place a ball on either side of spine, above bra strap. Walk feet out about 12 inches, hip-width apart, knees soft, arms down, back pressing onto balls. Squat, rolling back down over balls and raising arms overhead. Return to standing, rolling back up over balls and lowering arms. Repeat for up to two minutes.

Neck nurturer

Sit on edge of chair, feet flat, ball in right hand, head turned to right. Press ball on left side of neck wherever you feel tension. Holding ball in place, slowly turn head to left. Return to start. Reposition ball on another sore spot on the left and turn to left again. Return to start. Continue for up to two minutes. Switch sides; repeat.

Knee fixer
Lie on right side, legs extended, with right forearm supporting upper body. Place ball under right outer thigh, then bend left knee and position left foot in front of right thigh; put left hand in front of body for support. Slowly shift body so ball moves up to hip and down to knee, then back, for up to two minutes. Switch sides; repeat.

Wrist rescuer

Place balls inside their mesh bag and tie it. (If using tennis balls or racquetballs, substitute a sock.) Kneel; place right forearm, palm up, on balls. Roll forearm over balls, from wrist to elbow and back, for up to two minutes. Turn palm down; repeat. Switch arms; repeat.

Sole saver

Stand, holding back of chair for support with right hand, left hand on hip. Place ball under center of right foot, pressing body weight on ball. Roll ball under arch, up and down the length of sole and from side to side, for up to two minutes. Switch feet; repeat.

Source: SELF

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