This blog post was a part of Mirrix’s Weaving Wellness Month in January, 2015
Today’s post is by guest blogger Jennifer Chasalow VanBenschoten.
VanBenschoten has been making things with her hands for as long as she can remember. She enjoys a variety of creative projects including beading, weaving, cooking, and writing. After completing her 200 hour yoga teacher training, she completed specialized trainings and certifications in Curvy Yoga (adaptive yoga for every body) and kid’s yoga. When she’s not on her yoga mat or crafting, you can find her writing creative nonfiction, reading Tarot cards, meditating, or spending time with her husband and 8-year-old son in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of New York State.
We’ve all been there: totally absorbed in our work, we don’t notice how we’re sitting with shoulders hunched together, neck bent at an odd angle, legs crossed in a tight chair… And then you try to stand up. Ouch!
Crafting, beading, or weaving are all wonderful ways to calm the mind similar to meditation, but just like in the ancient practice of yoga, you need to take care of your physical body so that you can keep on doing what you love to do. These 5 simple yoga stretches will help you relax tight muscles from hours of sitting, and they can even be done at your desk at work, on an airplane, or anytime you feel the need to increase your energy and work your body a little bit.
Always remember that you should NEVER feel any pain when doing any of these stretches. You might feel sensation, a slight tingling in your body and your muscles as you move them and stretch them gently, but never any pain. If you DO feel pain, back out until you find a place where you can take full, deep breaths and it doesn’t hurt.Heart opener. This simple but effective pose will counter that forward slump we all cultivate during the hours spent at the beading or weaving table, and can be done either seated or standing up.
Make sure that you can get your arms behind you comfortably, so you may want to just turn sideways in your chair if you decide to stay seated.
Interlace your fingers behind your back. You may be able to get your palms together, but don’t force it. Keep your elbows soft so that you’re not locking your joints.
As you breathe, start to draw your shoulder blades together, slowly and gently moving your interlaced fingers away from your body. It doesn’t matter if you can only get your hands an inch or two away from your body – just notice the sensation across the front of your chest, particularly at the top of your sternum. You might feel a big opening like a big stretch across the top of your chest, just below your shoulders. If you don’t feel any sensation, keep drawing your hands away from your body until you notice sensation, not pain.
You can add a forward fold to this by hinging from your hips in your chair and bringing your chest to your thighs for a few breaths. Take care here not to round your shoulders in – keep those hands lifted and away from your back!
Hold for 5 slow, deep breaths.Neck opener. An added bonus of this gentle neck stretch is that it’s also one of my favorite ways to relieve a stress headache
From a comfortable seat, bend your right arm and place your right hand behind your back. Grasp your right wrist with your left hand so that you’re making a little “butterfly wing” with your left arm.
Lift your chin so that it’s level with the floor and you’re gazing straight ahead. You never want to do this stretch with a rounded spine, so press your sitbones (your butt) down into your chair and sit tall.
Slowly start to drop your left ear towards your left shoulder, being careful not to scrunch that shoulder up towards your ear. You might start to feel a stretch all along the right side of your neck, maybe even down through your shoulder and into your bicep. If you’d like, you can play with the position of your chin, rotating it gently up towards the ceiling or down towards your chest to deepen the sensation of the stretch.
Hold here for 5 slow, deep breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.Hamstring stretch (seated). Extend your right leg out and then scoot forward in your chair until you can comfortably rest your heel on the floor. Flex your foot by drawing your toes back towards your body and feel how all the muscles in the back of that leg fire up! You can either stay right here and hold for 5 slow, deep breaths, or hinge from your hips (without rounding your upper back and your shoulders) and direct your chest down towards your thigh for a forward fold.
Begin by sitting tall, with your chin parallel to the floor. Remember: we never want to twist a rounded spine! So make sure that your sitbones (butt) are pressing down into your chair, and your feet are flat on the floor. (You can even tuck a book or a block under your feet if you need to raise them up a bit so that your knees are at a comfortable 90 degree angle.)
Turn to face your right, placing your left hand on your right knee or your leg. Take your right hand around behind your chair or your back, and if it’s comfortable on your neck, slowly start to gaze over your right shoulder.
Pay attention here to what happens to your breath. If you can’t take a full, deep breath, back out a little bit until you can feel your belly expand with each inhale. When you’re ready, hold here for 5 slow, deep breaths, then release on an exhale and repeat on the other side.Standing lunge. This is a great stretch to do when you’ve been sitting for a long time. It opens up the inside of your hips and gets the blood flowing again after you’ve spent several hours scrunched up in a chair!
Stand facing the back of your chair with your arms extended and your hands on the top of the chair for support. Pick up your right foot and place it behind you as far back as is comfortable, balancing on your toes. Slowly start to bend your left knee until it’s at a 90 degree angle – do not let that left knee go past your ankle, or you risk damage to your knee.
As you balance here, draw your left hip back towards you while sinking your right hip forward and down to open those muscles. Use your breath here for 5 slow, deep breaths – on every exhale, try to make some space in your right hip and sink down a little lower into your lunge.
Come back to standing and repeat on the left side
It’s amazing what a little mindfulness can do for you in the middle of a marathon crafting session!