Sewing is by no means a static activity. You move around a lot, from the cutting table to the sewing machine, to the ironing board. However sometimes you do need to spend some time sewing with the machine, and when you do that, the body posture is not very comfortable. This article will present some simple exercises to do at home for beginners.
To make it easier to follow, this is part 1 of a multi-part article.
These exercises do not require any particular effort, are suitable even for people with health issues, and do not require any special equipment. Let’s first establish some rules:
The purpose here is not to build endurance, nor to build muscle, but to give the body the vitality that it loses after a period of sedentary activity.
Your body does not like the sudden change from a sedentary position to an active one. Your muscles need a little warm-up. Start slowly, and allow your body time to adjust.
Exercise often. Establish a routine.
You do not need one hour of exercise at once; better split your exercises into 5 or 10 minutes sessions spaced during the sedentary activity. Exercise every hour, or every two hours. Your body will tell you when it feels tired. Do you need to stretch? are you rubbing your eyes, are you yawning? Do you feel your muscles are not relaxed? All are signs you need a break.
You do not need to like it
Exercise even if you do not think you need it, or do not believe you need it or do not like to exercise, or you feel ridiculous (grown person raise the knees, or kick back?). Your body will thank you.
Why do you need relaxation?
You sit, look closely at the needle, and guide the fabric. All movements are small, and limited in distance. You use very few muscles. Of course, after a while you are tired, you become tense, or sleepy.
And guess what: this is not good for your body, this is not good for your state of mind and it is not good for your sewing either because you start making mistakes.
So we need to do something to fight this.
Recently, I had a discussion with Jonathan Maccaul, massage therapist and yoga instructor.
I asked if he has any advice for people who sew regarding body posture and relaxation techniques. To my surprise, he told me that these problems are not specific to our sewing activity. In fact, all sedentary desk work is causing the same problems, perhaps even to a greater degree than sewing.
What other activities besides sewing? For example:
- Computer work
- Game playing
- Reading (yes, you need to stretch after that too!)
- Doing one’s taxes (I could not resist this!)
- Stamp collecting (my husband spends hours with his stamps!)
In fact, if you think a little, I bet you can find many other activities that require only a limited amount of physical activity.
Jonathan gave me a number of tips which, he says (and I can confirm) will restore your body vigor and remove the fatigue and boredom. All exercises are extremely simple, none require any special training, and even people with other issues (ex. heart problems) can easily perform them.
I have to confess here, that Jonathan was not really prepared for this, so the setting you will see is entirely informal (my sewing room). But you will probably also do the exercises in your sewing room.
So without any delay, let’s see what Jonathan says!
Breathing is perhaps the most important part of our exercise and it plays a crucial role in keeping your body and mind active.
It is quite difficult to explain some breathing exercises, so I have prepared a short movie for this; please see it below.
Best exercises to stay fit
Avoid being cramped
Create an empty space around you. You do not want to feel cramped or squished by your surroundings.
It may not seem important on a conscious level, but it is proven that cramped spaces increase stress levels.
Control your breathing.
Breathing is an important part of ANY activity. Without correct breathing, your brain does not receive enough oxygen and does not function at top capacity. Your muscles also need well-oxygenated blood to work properly.
Breathing is an unconscious process, but we can spend a couple of seconds taking a couple of deep breaths from time to time as a relaxation technique too.
Breathe IN through your nose, and feel the chest expanding. Breathe out through your mouth, form an audible connection with your breath, and hear the exhale. This deeper breathing is in fact a technique used by people who commonly speak to an audience, naturally, a full chest of air (i.e. deeper breath) is better to carry the speaking activity. Repeat this a couple of times, you will immediately feel better and the sleepiness will start to wane.
During the exercises presented below please remember the breath! Try to follow the same routine of deep breathing. Further down, we will present more breathing exercises.
Straighten your body
Stand straight, shoulders pulled back. Chest forward. Take a couple of deep breaths.
Your relaxation has begun! And you didn’t really do anything yet, but you already feel a little better. Try it!
Raise your knees one by one
First one knee, then the other. Breathe while doing this.
It is pretty much like walking in place, but you lift your knees a little higher. Not exaggeratedly high. You do not need to do this fast, you do not need to do it long – perhaps 10 steps or so. You will not be tired after this, you will not breathe hard. The purpose of the exercise is not to build stamina or muscle or endurance, but simply to allow your blood to flow in areas of your body that were less used until now.
Raise your feet backward; kick back
This exercise uses a different set of muscles than the previous one. Also, while doing this, drag your foot on the carpet (most exercises are better performed barefoot). The friction action on your sole is also beneficial. Do this a couple of times, 10 or so.
And since I started with analogies (walking in place, the step before), to me this step looks pretty much like what a dog does after doing his business! I knew I can make you smile!
I am definitely not as young as Jonathan and I am no longer that flexible (you will notice his heels touch his hands in the image above). Don’t worry! You do what you can. Again, this is not for endurance, it is just to make your body feel alive after sitting still for a while.
Lift your knee, bring it to the other side of the body and touch it with the opposite hand
Same exercise, backward. Bring the foot to the other side of the body and touch it with the opposite hand
It is essential to bring your foot to the OTHER side of your body; it comes more naturally to move the hand, but the point is to move the foot. So do not simply raise your foot and touch it with the opposite hand.
These exercises are designed primarily to improve the coordination between your brain hemispheres since the two sides of the body are controlled by different parts of the brain. By performing tedious, repetitive activities, you use only partially your brain. This exercise is designed to make it fire on all cylinders.
You will notice again it is neither difficult nor strenuous. Repeat it again 10 times or so each (front and backward), at your own pace. The exercises presented here are simple versions of cross crawls, more complex versions exist but for our purpose, this is enough. The point is always left-right coordination.
This concludes the first part of our “relaxation exercises”, next part(s) will present more interesting exercises on this topic.
Remember, all exercises are simple, easy to perform, do not require any preparation nor do they require a certain level of fitness. You do not need to sew – these exercises are good after any activity that keeps you in one position for a long period of time.
I did not believe in the beginning that such simple exercises can have a large impact, but I got proof that they do. How? Simple. After sewing, I used to get muscle cramps or spasms, and sometimes they were painful. You know, like when you are in the water, swimming calmly, and suddenly one of your legs freezes, and you can’t move? I got them frequently if I spent more than two hours in my sewing room.
Well, after practicing these exercises a couple of times during the day, I no longer get those!
Let me know please what you think, if you have similar experiences if you found the exercises useful or not.
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