In 2008 at the age of 27, Emily Gable was pregnant with her second child when she had an ischemic stroke, marking the beginning of an unexpected journey to wellness.
The stroke left her unable to swallow, in constant spinning motion due to vertigo, and without the ability to hold her young children when walking due to imbalance.
“I had to learn to rewalk and be in my body again,” Gable said. “It didn’t affect me cognitively, but it did affect me bodily.”
After spending a month in the hospital, she was in a position where she felt like she had to start from scratch in developing a new relationship with her body.
“I had to focus on just walking and not falling over,” Gable said. “Balance and trying to stand still was hard for me since the whole world was spinning.”
Living in Maine at the time, she first went to a geriatric yoga class but then realized she was in need of specific one on one instruction to work on her alignment, which led her to a wellness practitioner.
“She had me sit on a ball — it turned out she was a body rolling practitioner,” Gable said, adding it was her first introduction to the Yamuna Body Rolling method. “I did private sessions for a year.”
The Yamuna Body Rolling technique is a form of body therapy that uses four different sized balls as tools to restore the body’s alignment and prevent injury. It helped Gable recover her alignment and regain her balance after her stroke.
“Body rolling is addressing the bone, the muscle from the origin of the bone to the insertion on the bone, and creating space and lengthening,” Gable said.
It also leads to a greater sense of body awareness. Gable explained that our minds are master integrators that make us feel as one between the different hemispheres of our body, but we realize they are experiencing different things when we isolate them.
“Body rolling brings it to our attention and shows you that your body’s right side and left side are experiencing different things,” Gable said.
There are many benefits one can gain through body rolling.
“It stimulates the nervous system, strengthens the bones, stimulates the myofascial system, increases circulation and relaxes muscles,” she said.
Gable, who now lives in Pottstown, became so enamored with body rolling that she decided to become a practitioner eight years ago when she established Body Sustainability with Emily.
Gable services clients from Montgomery, Berks and Chester counties through private and group sessions in person and virtually. She also offers specialty workshops. For now, in compliance with non-essential business closures, her offerings are exclusively live online classes.
“Everything can be addressed from head to toe, from the feet to the scalp,” she said, adding that one of her specialty workshops might focus solely on hips.
Body rolling is something that anyone can do of any age and is adaptive to any physical ability. While the work is typically done on a mat on the floor, modifications can be made if needed.
“The work can be done against a wall, in a chair or in a bed,” Gable said.
Arwen Vermeulen, of Malvern, Chester County, who suffers from chronic back pain, found that during her first session with Emily, the work that focused on her specific back issues felt good.
“I felt relaxed after the class and my body felt more balanced and aligned the rest of the day,” Vermeulen said.
You don’t have to wait for an injury to do body rolling since it serves as an ideal method to help with injury prevention.
“It helps in pre- and post-workouts to relax the muscles and build strength,” she said. “In post-workout, it helps in recovery.”
Through her personal experience, Gable has found that it’s best to incorporate body rolling into your wellness routine for a minimum of ten to twenty minutes daily.
“It is therapeutic and relaxing,” she said.
While the approach can be slow-paced and gentle, it can also be a fast-paced workout unto itself.
“You can break a sweat and it gets hard,” she said, adding the more you do it, the more advanced you can get.
One attribute of the practice that Gable appreciates most is she finds it to be a self-empowering practice that gives one the ability to learn what is going on in their body and realize how interconnected it is.
While some prefer the weekly guidance provided by sessions with Gable, others can eventually be on their way to keeping it up on their own at home after about four sessions. All they have to do is purchase some of the Yamuna balls either online or through Gable.
“It’s a self-help tool that gives you the ability to heal yourself,” she said.
Gable feels that body rolling, despite the fact it was developed 25 years ago, fills a huge gap in bodywork today.
“It’s allowing people to work on themselves directly without having a massage therapist or another body worker,” she said. “It’s allowing people control over the way they feel in their body and get exercise at the same time.”