I don’t know about you but I have a warped sense of timing when it comes to getting my projects done. I always think I can whip up a new outfit the day before the big event. Where this really gets me into trouble is the toll it takes on my neck and shoulders as I sew for long hours trying to meet my deadline. I have a tendency to hunch over my sewing machine, work surface and ironing system. As a professional dancer for over 20 years, I have learned a few stretches that release the tension and allow me a few more hours at the machine. I’d like to share them with you. You don’t have to be a dancer to do them and you can even stay seated at your sewing machine.
How to do Sew-ga (Yoga for Sewists)
It doesn’t take more than five minutes. You may be thinking, “I don’t have 5 minutes! The Academy Awards are tomorrow and I’ve got to be red carpet ready!” Trust me. These five minutes will relax your muscles and recharge your brain so that your sewing will be efficient and focused.
For the short term, following along with the below video will serve you many times over. For longer-term help, you may want to rethink some of the ergonomics of your sewing studio. I have a tall cutting table which means I will stoop over less when laying out my project. For my sewing table, I have my BERNINA 590, BERNINA L 860 and BERNINA L 890 lined up on hydraulic desks. This means that I am able to position the machines at a height that accommodates my height. Often, I will raise the desks to standing height so I can continue to sew when my tuchis gets sore. I also have a Laurastar Smart I ironing system with adjustable height. Not only does this press my fabric so beautifully, but it can also be positioned quite tall. I like it just below my ribcage for minimal slouch-ironing.
Alright! Let’s do some Sew-ga.
First, push back from your machine. You may stay seated but zip your torso up tall as if you are wearing a tight jumpsuit.
Start with your arms by your side. As you take a deep inhale, raise your arms out to your side then continue until they are overhead–like half of a slow jumping jack. Upon exhaling, lower the arms to your side again. Repeat 2x more. Maintain this deep breathing throughout the rest of the exercises.
Head Rolled Hems
Imagine that your head is a pitcher of water. As you inhale, gently tilt your head and spill water over your left shoulder. Exhale as you roll your head forward (spilling water onto your lap), then continue rolling the head until water is spilling over your right shoulder. Then bring your head back to vertical. Do not spill any water to the back. When we are in a slouched position, the back of our necks is already crunched so we are trying to avoid that position during Head Rolls. Complete 3 Head Rolls starting to the left and 3 starting to the right.
Inhale and extend your right arm directly to your right with the palm facing up, and energy in your arm, hand and fingers, reaching out without leaning your torso over. Exhale and reach your right arm up and over to your left side as if you are tossing a ball overhead. Do not collapse on your left side. Keep reaching up and over with energy at your fingertips. Inhale to arc the hand back across the sky and exhale to lower by your side. Complete three Seam Rippers with the right arm and three with the left.
Inhale and raise the arms overhead (like the Sewn Salutations) then exhale while bending the elbows and sliding them down an imaginary wall until your upper arms are even with your shoulders and your forearms are at a 90-degree angle (palms facing forward with fingers pointing up). Keeping the elbows in place, rotate the arms until the palms are facing back and fingers are pointing down. Be gentle. You may not have enough rotation to get your palms to face fully backward. Honor your limitations. Inhale to reverse the rotation and exhale to lower arms to your side. Complete three sets.