Launching the Etsy shop two years ago opened up a world of friendships with so many creative people. Through Etsy, Instagram, craft fairs, and conversations with customers I have been introduced to fantastic folks who can't help but create and craft wonderful things for this world. But with that passion can also come the aches and pains of an artistic life -- working from home and never giving yourself breaks, staying up late into the night to create after the kids are asleep, or standing for endless hours as a vendor at a craft fair. When the weight of a business is solely on your shoulders they're bound to get sore!
In an effort to help relieve all of our tight muscles I asked my friend Kenzie Pause, a yoga teacher here in Brooklyn, to develop a custom yoga routine that we can easily incorporate into our days. These poses target the areas that suffer the most when you're hunched over your workbench or tight from sitting all day. Even hobby crafters can benefit from these stretches -- now that fall is upon us I know a lot of you have been knitting and crocheting every chance you get! Try all the poses and see which ones soothe your tight spots the most. You can then pick and choose on any given day, or complete the whole series again for a full body stretch. Repeat often -- your body will thank you!
When we find ourselves hunched over a desk working for endless hours we make our bodies susceptible to aches, pains, and injuries. Over time, this worsens if we don't move our bodies in ways to counterbalance these repetitive movements. Think of stretching the body from head to toe, sometimes focusing a little longer on areas that might be a bigger problem to you personally.
Working for prolonged periods of time without movement can be detrimental to your health. Set an alarm to help remind you to move. Start with 30 minutes and then get up and do at least one of these recommended exercises below.
When you take a break from your work, remember to also rest your eyes. The eyes are muscles too and can be easily strained from focusing on a close fixed point for a long time. Look out a window at the furthest thing you can see. If you wear glasses, take them off for a moment. Then close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Palming: The eyes are an important muscle to never neglect. If you work on any project for an extended amount of time, the eyes can become very weak and tired. They need to rest just like any part of the body. Palming can help your eyes at any time. This exercise can be done before, during, or after a task. It can also be done daily if you are prone to headaches. At your desk, rub the hands together vigorously until there is heat between the palms. Then place your elbows on the table and place the hands over the eyes, resting the weight on the forehead not the eyeballs. Do not press into the eye sockets, just let the heat from your hands seep into the ocular area. Take at least 10-15 slow, deep breaths. You can end this exercise with a little face massage starting at forehead, moving to eyebrows and down to jaw, even into the neck and shoulders. Give yourself a little love and your eyes a little break.
Draw the chin down to the chest, keeping it lifted and the spine long as you bend to avoid rounding your upper back. Slowly roll head to the left and right without force. Move slowly and carefully as there are many small muscles in the neck. After bringing your head back to center, lift and gently look left and right.
Interlace fingers behind back with elbows bent. Without straightening elbows, draw the shoulder blades toward one another broadening the chest. Elbows may stay bent but you can work toward straightening the arms without locking elbows. Lift the heart to the sky. This could be done seated or if you're standing, fold forward with knees slightly bent, drawing hands up toward sky away from floor, lengthening the neck.
Eagle Arms: Give yourself a hug with left arm on top of right, trying to get elbow above elbow. Then begin to lift hands toward sky drawing wrists toward one another. This could be enough, but if your wrists touch, then draw right hand toward face and touch palms. In either variation, press in toward center, lift elbow and press palms slightly away from face. Repeat with right arm on top.
Cat/Cow: A seated version of this pose focuses primarily on the shoulders but if you have the floor space, the full pose on all fours could be done to involve the entire spine and pelvis. For seated, place hands on thighs, inhale and draw shoulder blades toward one another sending the heart forward. Exhale to round upper spine, spreading shoulder blades away from one another and drawing chin to chest.
Traditional cat/cow would be done on the hands and knees. Hands shoulder width apart, fingers spread wide, all knuckles connected to mat, knees hip width apart under the hips as you inhale to cow, lift the tail as the belly lowers (without collapsing) and the shoulder blades draw towards one another and the neck lengthens. As you exhale, lengthen tail down, rounding through spine, spreading shoulder blades apart, releasing neck and drawing in toward chest.
Thread the Needle: This is another great one if you have the floor space. From all fours (same set up as cat/cow) lift the left arm out to the side toward the sky, then thread the arm between the right arm and hips as the right shoulder releases all the way down to the ground. Head turn to left and cheek rest on floor. For an added stretch, wrap your right arm around your back for a bind (if your shoulder is feeling flexible enough). Repeat on the other side.
These are movements I'd recommend before and after working on a project.
Point fingers down to floor and with opposite hand draw the hand back. Remember to find sensation not pain. Repeat on other side.
Point fingers to sky, draw hand back, pressing palm away. Repeat on opposite side.
Wrist rolls: Roll wrists around like you're drawing circles with the fingers at least three times in both directions with both wrists.
Hand Openers: Open and close hands at least 10 times. This warms up the muscles and joints, especially in the colder months.
Sidebends: These could be done seated or standing. Lift arms to sky. Grab right wrist with left hand, draw belly in so ribs don't jut forward collapsing into low back and side bend to left. Breathe into right side. For an even deeper stretch, place your left forearm on the ground and extend with your right arm. Repeat on other side.
Dancer's Pose: You can hold onto a chair or desk or try balancing. Shift weight to the right foot, bend left knee and grab left foot with left hand. If not holding on, right hand reaches to sky. Draw inner thighs toward one another and lengthen from the left hip point to knee. Then, with square hips, start to move forward pressing foot into hand to get more release through front of hip. Repeat on the other side.
On the mat: From hands and knees, bring the right foot forward between the hands. Lift the torso, make sure that the right knee isn't moving past the ankle. Interlace fingers and press right knee away to get even more lift in torso. Release through front of left hip. If you're very flexible try not to collapse or go the furthest you can go, just find a stretch through left side. If you'd like to intensify this, reach arms to sky, grab left wrist, lengthening the left side and arm and side bend to right stretching through underarm, ribs and hips.
You can stretch and massage your feet while seated or standing.
Seated stretches: Flex and point the feet. Rotate ankles a few times in each direction.
Massage: From seated or standing, roll tennis or lacrosse balls under the feet hitting every part of the foot, spending extra time on any areas that feel tense.
Mindful Crafting Meditation: Before sitting down to craft again, it can be beneficial to your work and your overall well-being to do a mini meditation. Sit comfortably and begin to observe your breath. Let the exhalations deepen and feel a little more relaxed with each breath. Let go of expectations or judgement of your work. Begin to envision yourself surrounded with light, moving freely through your entire body with no obstructions. Let this be your creative energy flowing with no end and no beginning. Open yourself to the possibilities and thank yourself for devoting your time and creative energy to this project.
Ideally you would sit for at least five minutes with this breath and light meditation, but even just taking a few deep breaths and envisions light flowing freely through the body can be liberating to your work. If you find yourself frustrated or distracted during your project, take a break and try this meditation.
Many thanks to Kenzie for sharing her wisdom with us! If you're ever in NYC, check out her special All You Need Is Love yoga class set to the music of the Beatles. It is the best! Also a very special thank you to my friend Danielle for being our model for these poses. Did you notice the necklace she's wearing?
It's the round aquamarine prong-set pendant in 14K gold-fill. Dainty and perfectly matched to her outfit!
Which poses are you most excited about? I adore Thread the Needle, it always provides such a deep shoulder stretch. And that 30 minute timer reminder to get up and move is so necessary. Let us know below which poses you wind up finding the most helpful. And happy crafting!