Sometimes when I’m working at my bench, I concentrate so hard it occurs to me that I almost forget to breathe! Not a good thing, because I like to breathe and plan to keep doing it as long as I can.
Another thing I do is tense up my muscles all around my neck and shoulders. And I don’t blink my eyes often enough… You get the picture.
I’ve been practicing yoga for many years, and I have realized that I should apply some of my yoga practice when I’m working. I discussed the idea with Rosie, my yoga teacher, and she had several suggestions. I thought I would share a few ideas with those of you who also think you might benefit from this.
All of these movements should be done very slowly, gently and deliberately. Never do anything that hurts. These are gentle stretches intended to release your body from the tension that builds when we concentrate so hard. This is not intended to be a workout!
Start with the breath. These are called 4-7-8 breaths. Sitting up straight, inhale slowly and mindfully to a count of 4. Hold your breath to a count of 7. Then, exhale slowly to a count of 8. Slowly repeat a few times, taking care not to make yourself dizzy.
Now the eyes– periodically it’s a good habit to give your eyes a little break. Try these movements; look up to your forehead, then straight down to your chin. Stretch your eyes to look as far to the periphery as you can. Look up, then down, several times. Then do the same thing, but look left and right– from ear to ear. Afterward, rub the palms of your hands together vigorously to generate some heat. Then, cup your hands over your eyes, resting the heals of your hands on your cheekbones and your fingertips at your forehead. Close your eyes and let the warmth and darkness relax the eye muscles.
Next, the neck. Sitting up straight, with your shoulders evenly across, slowly lift the neck as if to stretch the spine. Very slowly and gently lower your chin to your chest. Then, slowly tip your head to the right and roll your head around—right, back, left, and front. Roll very gently and don’t strain your neck. Keep your chin pointed to the center and pivot around it. Next, repeat in the opposite direction. After that– stretch upright again, lifting the neck. Keeping your shoulders down, slowly and gently turn your head to look over your right shoulder. Then, move across to look over your left shoulder. Relax.
Now, the shoulders. Again, sit up straight, shoulders straight across. Then, lower your shoulders down. Roll your shoulders around to the back, then raise them up to your ears, then forward. Roll your shoulders several times, gently. Relax. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Last, something for your forearms, wrists and hands. Sitting up straight, hold your arms against your sides. Raise your forearms at a 90 degree angle out in front of you, hands straight out with the palms down, fingertips pointing forward. Holding your forearms in this position without moving them, bend your wrists so your hands are facing straight up– palms out, fingers pointing to the ceiling. Now slowly bend your wrists so your hands are facing down, backs of the hands out, fingers pointing to the floor. Keep your forearms in the same position without moving them. The wrists and hands will do all the moving. Repeat up and down, several times. Then, bend the wrists so your fingertips point right, backs of the hands out, palms toward you (as much as possible), forearms still not moving. Repeat by bending your wrists to the left. Left, right, several times, slowly. Then, still keeping the forearms straight, stretch your hands out fully, palms out, fingertips pointing up to the ceiling. Then squeeze the hands into in a fist. Stretch and squeeze, several times.
I hope you find these exercises calming, but at the same time getting the blood flowing! There are many more ways yoga can be practiced at your bench. Give it a try. Namaste!