My stack of Finished Objects is building slowly. The things I've made are simple-crocheted hats, scarves, socks, nothing fancy-but they're made with the recipients' tastes in mind and constructed with all good thoughts and love.
Any one who does craft work tends to push things, especially when facing deadlines. We can sit for hours, spinning, knitting, crocheting or sewing, forgetting to take regular breaks or refusing to stretch our bodies while we finish "just one more row." Neglecting our own needs can cause sore muscles, headaches, and crankiness.
Athletes know to prepare and stretch for a marathon and we should, too. Stretching and flexing before, during and after a session of fibre work will keep us flexible, help us relax and steady our tension, both in our bodies and our knitting. Slow, simple movements may help in preventing repetitive stress injuries. Improving lymphatic flow moves toxins out of our systems, bringing more energy to our bodies.
There are a few movements I practice daily, before I spin, knit or crochet or at the start a meditation/yoga practice. I pay attention to my state of mind and my breath, moving slowly through each one. Each movement is designed to bring mindful awareness to the body. The movements are beneficial to anyone who works with her hands. I present a few of them to you here.
While the suggestions below should be safe for most people, I am not a health practitioner. Please consult with your doctor or therapist before starting any new exercise regimen. Remember that you know your body best-stay in "the pain-free zone."
Sit in a comfortable, supported upright position, with your head, neck and shoulders extending upright, but relaxed. You can also stand in tadasana.
1. Begin at your head and neck. Slowly, carefully, with full attention, relax your shoulders, gently rolling them back to move your shoulder blades down your back. Bring attention to your breath. You are not trying to change your breath; just be aware of its rhythm. On an in breath, lower your right ear to your right shoulder, as best you can. (Don't move your shoulder up to your ear and don't push things. This is not a contest.) On your out breath, bring your head back to centre. Repeat the process for left ear/left shoulder. Do three or four cycles of these movements.
2. Do some gentle shoulder shrugs in both directions. Keep your head, neck and face relaxed as you move your shoulders in small circles. Don't hunch your shoulders up to your ears. Move slowly. If you experience any pinching in your neck, shoulders, back or anywhere, do not do this exercise.
3. Extend your arms in front of you, hands up, palms out, bringing energy into your fingers, your hands, up your arms to your shoulders. Gently bend and flex your hands at the wrists while keeping energy in your arms. Repeat these motions several times. Bend and flex only as far as is comfortable.
4. Give yourself a gentle hand massage, paying special attention to the pads at the base of your thumbs and the spaces between your fingers. Intertwine your fingers and stretch your arms out, away from your body, with your palms facing out. Release your fingers and intertwine them "the way that feels weird," as my teacher says. (If you usually intertwine your fingers with your right baby finger on top of your left, put your left baby finger on top of your right, etc.) Repeat the exercise, noticing the changes you feel when you move out of one small habitual practice.
5. Place your hands in prayer position, elbows bent. Bring your arms in towards your chest, keeping your back straight and extended upward. Gently bow your head, keeping your back neck extended. Feel the stretch in the back of your neck. Hold this position for a few breaths and then gently raise your head and lower your arms.
As you practice and while you're knitting, etc., take a few deep breaths on occasion. Full deep breaths help with anxiety, stress reduction and oxygen flow to our bodies and brains, something all of us need, especially at busy times of the year.
Enjoy your work and the season!