Book Review: The Roll Model by Jill Miller

4/5 Stars

Those who have participated in some athletic endeavor in recent years are likely familiar with self-myofascial release (SMR), at least in concept, if not in name. Many will be familiar with foam rolling, and some will know of fascia as some kind of connective tissue in the body. But few will understand the biology and practice of this self-treatment to the depth presented by Jill Miller in The Roll Model. There is likely no more comprehensive and accessible guide to what exactly fascia is, how adhesions form within this tissue, the dysfunctions these adhesions cause, and how they can be resolved. If it contained no other information, Miller’s book would be valuable for this chapter alone. At the same time, it is possible to gain significant benefit from the self-treatment techniques without understanding the underlying biology. Miller’s list of SMR sequences, trigger points and techniques, combined with pictorial demonstrations is unparalleled in its volume and detail. More importantly, these techniques work. A few minutes of self-experimentation with the sequences and a pair of Miller’s specially-designed Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls reduced discomfort and improved mobility in my most overstressed muscles and joints. Miller describes a host of other benefits, including rehabilitation from injury, stress reduction, and relief from emotional trauma; however, since I am fortunate enough to not have suffered any recent physical or emotional trauma, I cannot personally attest to the effectiveness of her method in these areas. But as an athlete who trains regularly and intensely, I was more than happy with the physical results I did achieve.

Some readers may feel that Miller has an underlying agenda to use this book to sell more of her products, which include four sizes of Therapy Balls and a host of instructional DVDs. She repeatedly points out the benefits of the Therapy Balls in comparison to other tools, noting their pliable texture and grippy surface. The book also contains twenty-two personal testimonials, which can either be inspiring and introduce the reader to new applications for the Balls, or feel like another magic bullet sales pitch. Regarding the Balls, I have a friend who is a massage therapist and had never heard of Jill Miller, and when he picked up a Therapy Ball, he instantly remarked that it seemed like it would replicate the touch of a professional masseuse. Miller’s descriptions of the Balls are accurate: they do grip your skin and allow you to twist and slide layers of tissue over one another, and they are soft enough to navigate over and around bony areas without causing any bruising pain. Yet I have also achieved similar results in terms of reduced tension and improved mobility with lacrosse balls, foam rollers and other tools. As for the testimonials, while they may seem like unabashed hero-worship for Miller and her supposed miraculous Roll Model Method, they also open up new possibilities for how to use the Therapy Balls. If you identify with one of Miller’s so-called Roll Models, I suggest using her method to try to resolve the issue, as it is far cheaper and less invasive than most medical interventions.

To suggest that Miller is trying to sell additional products with this book is not a slight, just an observation that she is conducting a business and trying to promote what she feels is a valuable tool. Besides, the information contained in The Roll Model is useful on its own, even if you never buy a DVD or attend one of her training seminars. Speaking as an athlete and an advocate of self-treatment, I believe this book is a highly worthwhile read for those seeking to learn about their bodies, reduce pain, remove dysfunction and improve physical performance.