Yoga for Quilters and Sewers

Most quilters and sewers spend hours bent over a cutting board or sitting at a sewing machine. The result can be muscle strain, lower back pain, or wrist pain. The following are some good ergonomic principles and yoga stretches that help to reduce stress on the muscles, keep joints flexible, and protect wrists and fingers.

Beneficial guidelines include:

  • Quilting is repetitive. Get up and move around every half hour. Drink a glass of water.

  • Keep your ironing board across the room to encourage you to get up and move around.

  • Exercise during your breaks: Shrug your shoulders, pivot your head from side to side; stretch your arms up.

  • Do standing yoga postures like down dog and cobra to stretch the muscles and flex your joints.

  • Pay attention to the height of your sewing machine and center yourself in front of the needle.

  • If it is difficult to see your work as you sew, put door stops under the back legs of the sewing machine to tilt your work for a better view. Check you lighting.

  • Stretch before you go to bed at night

The following are some yoga exercises that are helpful for sewers and quilters to know. Many are listed in Yoga at the Kitchen Sink. Hold each position for a few breaths. Do not force the stretch. Be aware of your body and your breath. Pay attention and stop if there is sharp pain. Yoga is about gentle stretching not pain for gain. If you have arthritis be mindful of your joints.
1. Facing a wall, reach up with your arms and fingers and down with your feet.

2. Holding on to the wall or a chair walk back into a down dog, stretching your torso until it is parallel to the floor. Firm up your legs, while releasing your spine. Bend alternate knees as you “walk the dog”.

3. Stand in mountain pose with arms at your sides. As you exhale, extend fingers and elbows out to the side and bring your arms up overhead with the palms facing each other. Interlock your fingers and press the palms up to the ceiling, stretching the fingers and palms open. Stretch side to side. Take a few breaths and stretch. Let go of fingers and return hands to sides. This stretch can be done sitting forward in a chair.

4. Do shoulder rotations. Inhale as you roll shoulders up and exhale as you roll shoulders down. Repeat several times. Shrug shoulders to your ears as you inhale and drop them with a sigh. Let go of stress and tension.

5. Stretch forearms by bring hands together in prayer position. With hands together reach up and then down. Move hands over to the right and to the left. Make large circles with your hands together. Repeat circles in the other direction.

6. Stretch wrists by interlacing fingers with palms facing down. Create traction by gently pulling wrists apart. Keeping the fingers interlaced raise your right arm and lower your left arm to bring your right wrists into flexion and you left wrist in extension. Reverse arms and repeat. This exercise can be repeated with your palms facing inward or outward. The stretch is slightly different each time.

7. Gently move the joints in your hands, give them a gentle shake and rest your hands in your lap. Close your eyes and notice how you feel.

The following are additional resources

Tips from HGTV's Simply Quilts, Feb.13, 2004. Guest Dr Susan Delaney Mech author of Rx for Quilters: Stitcher Friendly Advice for Every Body ISBN 1571200924

Timothy Mc Call, Yoga as Medicine, New York: Bantam Books, 2007

Ellen Serber, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Repetitive Strain, and Yoga,

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