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Jill Miller: How to Improve Recovery, Self-Abdominal Massage, & Why She Meditates Upside-Down

Jill Miller, Improve Recovery, Abdominal Massage, Why She Meditates Upside-Down, Yoga, Tune-up, Balls

Jill Miller, author of The Roll Model, is totally off her rocker. Get ready – you’re about to learn a ton about your body, your gut, and… balls.

But before we get there, I admit I’m shooting out a shameless plug.  My wife Alyson and I just finished up a new  video series called The Wild Diet Cooking Class.

We’ll show you how to prepare really healthy meals by just grabbing a skillet and cooking up something great in fifteen minutes.  It’s down and dirty, us in the kitchen, doing what we do every day.  We’re cooking up some of our favorites, including Alyson’s Choconut Cookies which are taking the Paleo community by storm. Check out all these recipes and more at www.fatburningman.com/cooking.

Which brings us to the review of the week, which is for the cooking series!


Thanks guys.  This was extremely delicious and easy to make. Chicken Parmesan was also my go-to birthday meal as well, and I must say this is some of the best I’ve ever had.  After being a fat kid my whole life and recently losing the weight, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to eat it again and keep off the weight.  This recipe changes everything.  Coconut flour works great in the recipe as mentioned in the video.  I think I’ll make it over zucchini noodles next time.  Keep it up.  You two are doing great work! –Chris Nicosia

We spent years working on these gluten free, paleo-friendly, delicious recipes and we are happy to offer this series for you at half off during launch time.

Just so you know, I turn down every request for advertising and sponsorship on our podcast.  To keep it free for you, we work our butts off to bring you programs like this cooking class.  So give it a try, and keep the podcast free!

On to the show with Jill Miller, where we’re digging into:

  • How to improve recovery and performance with soft tissue care
  • Why family is the hardest to get on board
  • Why self-abdominal massage is the missing link in everyone’s training
  • How to properly meditate (hint: you should be upside down)

If you’ve got creaky bones, or you want to improve your performance, or maybe you just want some ironing out like me, this show is for you.


I’m ironing out my achy spots with the balls Jill sent me as we speak.  Jill is the creator of The Roll Model, a program that empowers you to take your health into your own hands with specially designed self-massage balls and techniques.

I’m glad you were rolling around—it makes me so happy to know that people are rolling around on their living room floor getting all loosened up and unknotted.

Movement helps me think.  So having a therapy ball under my foot or in my hand just helps me be more productive.  I annoy people sitting next to me at movie theaters… because I am always finding some new muscle and trying some body work on it, but I stay more relaxed that way.

I’m using the big ball.

The alpha ball is very large—the big therapy ball.  These are all rubber balls, different sizes, and the Alpha is huge, which would be ankle and lower leg health rather than the bottom of your feet.

I’m trying not to make ball jokes, because I’m sure you’ve heard them ten times over.

No, I haven’t heard them… people get really relaxed when I’m working with them and they all have their own relationships with balls.  And this is your 7th podcast today, Abel, so I want to make you as relaxed as possible and do anything to help you.

The Specially Designed Massage Balls

What you do is one of the most underappreciated things in the world of health. You’re doing all the things that help prevent people from being a crippled mess in their 20s, 30s, 40s or 80s.

I’d always done foam rolling and it really helps compared to nothing… the stick as well.  A few years ago I got a lacrosse ball and was shown how to use it.  It was much easier to carry around and for travelling—great for thinking and the brain.  But your balls are much friendlier.

Lacrosse balls are designed for sport, but not for human tissue.  My balls take ahold of your skin and create tissue transition from the top down.  This creates friction and that creates intra and intermuscular stretch among the layers of fascia for improvement of mobility and to hasten hydration.

They’re also very pliable.  The yield helps because when you’re rolling up and around bony parts, this will nuzzle into the grooves.  The texture of the Roll Model Balls absorbs the jutting prominences.  The grip takes ahold of the valuable soft tissues in and around your joints, stimulating receptors and neurons there—you get a good rubdown and improve your ability to sense those areas.

As a teacher, we want to have our hands free during the classes, so we stick our balls in various areas of our fitness clothes… it’s very entertaining.


Let’s take a step back and talk about why this is important to begin with.  Experienced athletes would never debate that you need to work on the ugliest most painful parts of your body, but most people getting started don’t know what and why you’d do it.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the 4th leading cause of death on the planet.  That, I believe, has a lot do with the fact that more of the world is sitting more often.

Sitting Immobilizes certain structures in your body that are meant to help stabilize your spine. Jill Miller, Yoga Tune-up, Recovery, Fat-Burning, Well being, human body,

Sitting immobilizes certain structures in your body that are meant to help stabilize your spine.

When you’re sitting, you’re stretching your butt.  Your glut tissues are being lengthened and compressed by your body weight.  Great if you want to relax, not if you want to be productive.  Inside your body you have a network of fascia—its’ the soft tissue scaffolding to give your muscles shape– and your muscles rely on them.

As you sit, you lengthen these fascial tissues.  When you stand up, these don’t have as much recoil as they would if you were moving more.

One of the things I teach is how to put your butt back on your butt—after thirty years of sitting, your tush has fallen off axis.  We have all manner of weird walking and funky spinal position from that weakness at our base.

Your base is where your genitals are—that’s where you poop and peep—urinate (sorry, young child at home).  We can have all manner of tightness in our lower backs because we’re sitting all the time.  That adds up to pain.  And pain sucks.  Pain sucks the life out of you.  It’s a parasite.  It fosters a downward spiral of negative consequences.

Stand more, but also treat the tissues and help them find their way back to their best axis, or line of pull, or motion production.

So that’s one of the long-winded stories about why sitting is so destructive—it weakens your butt. When you have a weak butt, it’s not that bouncy round thing. It’s literally fallen, and you’re wearing your butt halfway down your leg.

Then you compensate.

You’re trying to play catch-up—ankle hurts, lower back hurts, you’re chasing your tail.  But you’re not addressing your tail.  The real issue is decades of sedentariness from sitting.


I love my mother, but she doesn’t do the self-practice.  I’m an obsessive compulsive type of person and when I started to get into my body as a tween, it’s been nonstop ever since.

My mother is in chronic pain, she tries medicine after medicine and gone through therapist after therapist… and they can help her for a little while, then she moves onto the next thing.  I was helping her with some gnarly arthritis and of course she felt better—but I can’t get her to do the exercises tomorrow.

When clients come to me in pain, they’re just like my mother, but they have a little more will.

Jill’s mom—please just start rolling around on the balls.  Please try it.  It’s amazing.

I did a seminar with Kelly on Creative Online.  It was his mobility seminar, Maintaining Your Body, I did a piece on fascia and breathing dynamics.  How to palpate your own diaphragm… what?

They’ve never touched their diaphragm—softly exhale, take your fingers, slide them underneath the border of your ribcage.  Push your fingers up into the inside of your ribcage and you feel your diaphragm  pushing into your fingers.

My mother was watching live.  My mother was getting an infusion at a cancer center to help with psoriatic arthritis… to suppress white blood cells— part of the problem was that she had an overreacting autoimmune system.  Next to people who are dying, she was watching the show.  She sees me demonstrate this diaphragm contact, and then I get done with the show and there’s a phone message.

“Jill, Jill I can’t believe it! I’ve touched my diaphragm for the first time in my life!”  She has always been asthmatic… and knowing that I finally reached my mom.  I had to go on TV to do it.

Why do you think that is? A lot of people have written in… they can do it, but when they try to explain it to family, that translation of information and habits almost never seems to happen.  But if you meet a stranger, they’ll take your advice for no apparent reason.

I am not a family therapist—your sphere of influence, your role within the family, there’s so much that goes into why your parents aren’t listening to you.

My dad’s a doctor – he LOVES the alpha ball.  My dad wasn’t a fan of me being into yoga—not a fan of obsessive compulsive stretching (I’ll let that sink in for a moment). He has many manner of musculoskeletal complaints (including scoliosis), but he’s a doctor so he looks at the world through medical eyes—he’s a really good infectious disease specialist.

But he’s got the Alpha ball and loves it and sleeps with his—in a particular way on his bottom, and it helps with sciatic pain so he’s able to pass out.


What happens when you take someone who’s never done this before and you start to work on them?

First thing I do is I look at how they breathe.  24,000 breaths a day, the pattern for me is key to being able to have any of the other stuff stick.

You have to condition your nervous system to accept the change.  Really taking a look at your internal patterns from inside out, you’ve got to address the breadth piece.

I shared the abdominal gut rolling— Kelly hadn’t thought of massaging the guts in that manner, and it answered one of the final pieces of his own asthma pattern.  I’ve started for years by offering people an approach so that they feel safe doing it.  It’s extremely threatening to all of your biological systems to put deep pressure into your abdomen.

Today on Facebook I saw a cat massaging another cat's belly. It's so primal. The dogs and cats get it. You've got to do it for your health. belly massage, rub,  abdominal, yoga, jill miller

Today on Facebook I saw a cat massaging another cat’s belly.  It’s so primal. The dogs and cats get it. You’ve got to do it for your health.

When I was running marathons, I was getting regular massages to make sure I don’t mess things up— then one of my therapists went straight to my abdomen.  I was like “holy smokes,” how much stuff am I carrying there?  All these childhood memories came rushing back.  It was so needed.

Not a lot of things contact the vagus nerve—but when something does, it changes your ability to relax.  Even though you’d been relaxed before, this direct access route can be extremely threatening. You have reason to be up in arms.  It takes some mental work to be able to allow yourself to create conditions so you can allow that mechanical pressure to do its thing.  To do its work.

There was a study by a Dr. Kevin Tracey that was recently published in the Huffington Post.  He is doing studies on people with violent cases of rheumatoid arthritis, and by mechanically stimulating the vagus nerve through branches in the neck (pacemaker under collar bone and attached electrodes to the vagus nerve).  These were people at their end, on every drug, can’t move or walk, every single person in the study had massive improvement in all symptoms and many got off the drugs… just by stimulating the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve helps you flip your off-switch.  And it killed some of the inflammation communication between the brain and the gut.  This has massive implications for people who have chronic inflammation.  Massage spec to vagus nerve helps dampen that overblown chronic inflammation state.  Avoiding the gut is so silly in so many ways.

I’m talking about self-stimulation with a massage ball.  I can use a Yoga Tune Up ball in a certain position, create a certain mindset, use breathing strategies, and it’s literally your reset button.

Do you use the inflatable ball?

Sitting can create a ton of very poor mechanics in the abdomen from lack of movement.

What you can do with a corgis ball is glide it from side to side and up and down and in circles.  I have 9 different techniques to help enhance the mobility in the abdominal areas.

Once you improve the intramuscular mobility in your abdomen: breath will improve, back pain will change, posture will change.  It’s an amazing access tool to help with so many things.

What is possible with this kind of massage treatment?

I’m a process person.  I’m not a results person.  For me the end goal is the process.  You’re evolving so things change.

One of the great things about this approach is about mapping yourself and getting to know your body better.  We have these body blind spots. When you start to use therapy balls you start to uncover the blind spots where you haven’t seen yourself through sense.  Increasing your body’s sense of itself is one of the goals.

It will continue to improve your ability to map yourself, then you have a better sense of coordination and you’re less accident prone. You move that pain stick further and further away from your life in terms of the muscular skeletal element and the nerve system—this also ups the health and wellbeing meter on your life.

A client might say, “I have pain in my knee.”  I’ll address their knee—but how are they using their feet and ankles? The knee is just a junction between the hip and the ankle.  The hip and ankle are connected to fascia running up the spine.

Results are that you re-pattern yourself to connect to proper breathing.  Breathing is a problem with the knee?  If you look at the connections with the fascia, you’ll see your breathing structures are actually related to the knee.

It’s so freakin’ cool.

It’s a high level anatomy– I try to make it fun.  The way I teach, I create the hunger for introspection.  People get quiet on the inside to percolate and cultivate their listening skills.

In The Roll Model book or video or workshops, we’re really good at enticing people to be their own best Jane Goodall.  You’re the lab and the research scientist.


Selfish question:  We tend not to use furniture that much. But when you’re sitting to do meditation or yoga, how are you supposed to do that?

I don’t cow-tow to any yoga philosophy. I step my way out of certain aspects of the yoga community because they were relying on mystical anatomy and I couldn’t buy into it.

I want to create an environment for optimal relaxation.  I do this in five ways:

  • Partially inverted: Sitting is great if you’re on a train or something.  But for me, partial inversion is number one.  That means reclining or have an object or block under your pelvis— your pelvis should be higher than your heart, higher than your brain.  This turns on your parasympathetic and dampens the parasympathetic outflow.
  • Breathing:  Exhale longer than you inhale.  There’s a pattern of inhale—pause—exhale—pause.  The exhale pattern should last longer than your inhale.
  • Mindset:  Allow relaxation to occur.  You have to mentally, with a phrase or a sound, just agree with yourself that you can relax.
  • Darkness
  • Quiet:  You don’t have to build a bomb shelter, but maybe put on an eye mask and ear plugs.

When you use the massage balls, the touch accelerates the relaxation response.  Try to meditate when you’re that relaxed.  That is really hard.  You want to be on the edge of passing out on a cliff, but stay alert. That is meditation.


The book is called The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body… find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at the Yoga Tune Up website.

I’m also currently working on a fitness program for 24 Hour Fitness called Treat While You Train. It includes—therapy ball work, flexibility, and mobility for the masses.  It’s truly self-care health care.

If you don’t want to miss a single episode of the podcast, sign up for the newsletter now!  You’ll stay up to date on all the shows and get awesome freebies sent straight to your inbox—advertising free!  Click below—what are you waiting for?


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  • Eric says:

    I gotta say. Almost everything that I heard from Jill I thoroughly enjoyed. Now for the disagreement…. I do not consider meditation to be my relaxation tool although I think it can relax the body. At it’s core, meditation is my practice of awareness and acceptance. I guess it matters what you’re training for, but I think ancient cultures have gotten this one correct. Not having the spine erect will inevitably lead to slumber and not allow for those deeper conscious experiences that one gets from meditation. If she wants to call what she does day-dreaming or relaxing I am fine with that, but what she is doing is NOT meditation

    • Jill says:

      Hi Eric, Thanks for listening to the cast. I am super glad you enjoyed it. In listening to the podcast I agree with you that my meditation discussion was incomplete. There are different concentration techniques that I employ once I have established the set-up of deep relaxation. These can be external or internal object focus, sound, physiological/interoceptive focus, counting, repetition of mantra etc. As a side note, I work with many people in chronic conditions for whom sitting upright, even while supported by bolsters, cushions, seat backs etc is untenable, and yet when we alter their relationship to gravity, meditation is no obstacle. So I try to keep an open mind about what meditation is and is not, and what it should “look” like. There are many ways to meditate across multiple cultures. It sounds like you’ve found a style that works for you. I certainly did not intend to indicate that people are NOT meditating if they are not slightly inverted. My intention was to communicate that by creating conditions of ultimate relaxation, you provide your brain with the challenge of remaining focused and alert in spite of the fact you’ve shut down the majority of sympathetic outflow, and thus introduces meditation to meditator. I hope this helps to clarify. Thanks for giving me the prompt to explain. 🙂

  • Sati says:

    I have a ton of respect for Jill Miller and all that she has done for the yoga community in terms of re-assessing the biomechanical value of extreme stretching. As a bodyworker I recommend the YTU balls to all of my clients, because I don’t want them to return to me week after week with the same problems- I want them to take charge of their own musculoskeletal health and live pain-free lives. So, I’m grateful for this enormous contribution. But really, Jill? “THERE ARE NO MERIDIANS, JUST THIS CHAOS OF PERFECTLY ORGANIZED STUFF? ” I think maybe you are overstepping your authority a little bit here. Just because the focus of your personal work is not about “energetics” as we tend to think of that word doesn’t mean that you need to throw other philosophies under the bus. That quote just seems to come out of nowhere and doesn’t really serve any purpose at all in the context of the interview because you’re supposed to be talking about yoga, chakras, nadis, and other aspects of “mystical anatomy” anyway, not lambasting Chinese Medicine, which makes a big contribution to alleviating pain, through those meridian theories. Just, why go there?

    • jill says:

      Hi Sati, I am truly sorry if my comment was out-of-bounds. And by no means did I mean to throw meridians under the bus. I wish I had shared more context of this statement. First off, I spent 2 years of my life studying shiatsu and meridian theory. No doubt, I felt “energy/chi”, loved (and was confounded by) the meridian assessment strategies. I also dated an acupuncture student for 18 months in my early 30’s and learned even more at that time. What I meant by my statement is that when you are dissecting a cadaver, there are no perfectly drawn “lines” as you see represented in Chinese/Japanese medical texts, much like there are no glowing chakras of different colors in a cadaver. I believe that the chakra/nadi model and meridian model are both excellent models from which to view the body, gauge causation of illness and imbalances and also provide remedy strategies that all humans can benefit by. My statement of “there are no meridians” was meant to relate to the visually obvious structure. I have a challenge with mystical anatomy as the exclusive answer to all biomechanics questions. I hope to improve the dialogue between both families…esoterics and structuralists. Unfortunately, that statement left out further explanation. I am a fan of Chinese medicine and have seen its positive effects in my body and the lives of most of the people I know. I hope this reply clears that up a bit. Thanks!

  • Sati says:

    Thanks, Jill. Thanks for your thoughtful reply to my reflexive one! I hoped that’s what you meant. We are on the same page, and I agree about the traditionalist yoga response that finds mystical answers to biomechanical problems… it’s not doing our bodies any favors.

    It’s unfortunate that Abel decided to make an image meme out of a statement that is out of context or at least not clearly explained. Because that’s an image that has your name on it and can be used to reference this page in social media!

  • Seth says:

    I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast. It was my first time listening to your show; I only just discovered it browsing on my podcast app for health and fitness programs. Abel: you facilitated/led a great interview! I’m looking forward to following your podcast now and learning more about what you do. Jill: I took away so much from your remarks. While I’m not starting from zero, I’m always looking to improve. You provided a great deal of grounded, actionable information. I’ve since ordered your book and a complete set of the YTU balls. I’m looking forward to the “process.”

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