Remember when you were a kid playing the game of making grotesque faces? As you stuck out your lips in an exaggerated way or made a pig nose with your thumbs in your nostrils, some well-meaning adult would say, “Stop that or your face will stay that way!” Well, too much time in your chair or at your desk can have the same long-term effect on your body without any of the goofy fun.
Like a lack of variety in your diet can lead to nutritional imbalances, a lack of variety in your physical activity can lead to decreased range of motion, impingement, and eventually pain. Hand pain, wrist pain, and a general pain in the neck are the common results of too many hours with the nose to the grindstone.
When your job demands repetitive motion, variety can be hard won. Our work is in front of us, in our hands and on our desks. When we’re good at it, we lean in with enthusiasm. Sometimes even when we step away though, we keep that forward leaning posture. The shoulders curve forward, head reaches forward, and chest hollows. Such forward leaning can exacerbate (or even cause) pain in the hands, wrists, and forearms.
In acute cases, ice (and maybe even gin) are called for. In most other cases, an ounce of preventative yoga is worth a pound of curative ice (with or without adult beverages). Opening up the chest, neck, and shoulders can bring some ease to your hands, wrists, forearms, and possibly your mind.
Here are three quick exercises to get you there—you don’t even have to call them yoga in order to benefit!
- Step away. Every hour or so, just step away from your work. Walk. Stroll. Swing your arms. Shrug and roll your shoulders. Tip your head back. Sigh. Breathe. Laugh.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, interlace your fingers behind your back, elbows slightly bent. Breathe deeply. On an inhale, straighten your arms, proudly stick out your chest, take your gaze upward, throw you head back (but make sure to keep the back of your neck long and supple). Hold this position for several breaths. On an exhale, fold forward, bringing your chest down to your knees (bend your knees as necessary). Keep your arms straight and reaching away from your back. Let the weight of your interlaced hands bring you further into the forward fold. Hang here for several breaths. Let your head be heavy, your neck long. Come up on an inhale leading with your interlaced hands. Release. Swing your arms. Shrug your shoulders. Breathe.
- Stand with your right hip against (or very near) a wall, feet parallel to the wall and each other. Raise your right hand straight up above your head. Press your arm and your open palm into the wall. Keep your hand and arm as they are, pressing into the wall, and turn your feet and torso away from the wall. Take your gaze away from the wall, keeping your neck long and regal. Breathe here for several breaths in this turned-away position. Release. Turn you feet and torso back to your starting position. Imagine your arm is the hand of a clock; move it to 1:30. Turn your feet and torso away from the wall. Breathe. Release. Move your arm to 3:00, turn away from the wall. Breathe. Release. Repeat on the left side—left arm at midnight, 10:30, 9:00 (times may vary depending on your location and the openness of your shoulders).
While performing this quick routine, you can even make those grotesque faces your killjoy caretaker admonished you about when you were a kid. Feel better.