Apparently the fountain of youth isn’t a fountain or even a jar of expensive night cream but a little blue ball I can roll in my hand. I discovered this recently when I agreed to “get melted” at the Equinox Gym in New York City. I didn’t know what it meant, but I when I registered for the class I was promised by the receptionist that I walk out of the gym feeling like I was on a cloud, standing taller, looking leaner and ache-free. I thought, “Sheesh, she’s really drinking the Kool-Aid to make that overpromise,” but her conviction piqued my curiosity.
The class was packed with a mixture of ages, shapes and styles of people. There were lean yogis, a seasoned ballerina with her pale sculpted body, full stage makeup and nude tights and oversized bunions that proved she’d spent many years on her toes, a bunch of Eileen Fisher clad ladies looking comfortable in their linen pants, a beefy guy dripping in sweat who just stepped off the Stairmaster and me in an Indian tunic and flip flops.
Getting MELTed means performing a series of short, focused routines with three small balls: the first ball is soft and squishy, the next is hard and round and the third looks like one you’d get out of a gumball machine. Sue Hitzman, the creator of MELT, explained that everyday life activities such as lifting kids, carrying groceries, being hunched at our computers and health-boosting workouts take a toll the connective tissue that surrounds every joint, muscle and organ in our body. (I thought of how I spent this summer up in my attic writing for motherblogger.net and feeling sore just from sitting). This wear-and-tear dehydrates the connective tissue and can cause stiffness that can eventually lead to pain and injury. In her research, Hitzman found that by massaging the hands and feet with these three small balls allows you to rehydrate your connective tissue and increase your mobility and even slow down the aging process. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on those blue balls!
First, Hitzman had the class assess our flexibility. She asked us to lean over and see how far we could touch our toes. I was surprised that even with my hot yoga and bootcamp classes I couldn’t touch the floor without feeling an extreme stretch in my hamstrings. Then she had a us role the squishy ball under our feet to get moving. After she told us to take the gumball-sized ball and place it on the center of our foot, a pressure point that would release joint compression. I felt nothing. Then Hitzman said if you don’t feel it it’s not in the right place. I readjusted and zow! It was not painful but the spot was tender and sent a warm sensation up my leg. We were instructed to massage each foot knuckle with the small ball. Then we performed a technique called “shearing” with the hard large ball where we rolled it over our foot in a forward direction to stimulate fluid production deep within the connective tissue. Up next: “Rinsing”, a move where pressed one of the large balls in a steady motion to get the fluid moving through our feet and to jog fluid through our all the connective tissue in our body and relieve tension our neck and lower back. Lastly we “scribbled” under our feet to stimulate what Hitzman said is the outermost layer of connective tissue.
I can’t say if I knew for sure if my connective tissue was more hydrated but afterward, I was able to bend over and touch my feet to the ground seamlessly with no ache in my hamstrings.