5 Easy Stretches Every Writer Needs for Their Creative Muscles

 


Image by Carl Newton on Unsplash

You’ve heard of stretching the creative muscle—the hypothetical muscle that keeps you putting fresh ideas on the page. There’s lots of advice for working that particular “body” part—writing sprints, story prompts, stream of consciousness. But what about the other more literal muscles involved in the creative process?

I’ve been practicing yoga for over 8 years now, and nothing has helped me keep at the keyboard more than my daily dose of stretch. Sure, my shoulders get stiff, hips get tight, and neck occasionally twinges, but more often than not, those are the result of neglecting a good yoga session. If I keep to it, sitting at the computer is rewarding without the ouch.

If you’re wondering how I fit yoga into my schedule, the answer is simple: half hour, tops. For many people I’ve talked to, the word “yoga” brings up images of long periods on mats while an instructor works through a whole-body workout in a soothing voice. I do participate in this traditional yoga idea once a week (which I follow up with Mexican food because, why not?). The rest of the week, it’s 20-30 minutes on the mat, and I’m here to offer up five types of stretches you can do in under 30 minutes to stay in good typing shape.

**Though I have been practicing yoga for years, I am not a certified professional. These are meant as suggestions, nothing more. Yoga is all about finding what works for you. It should not be painful. Always modify or skip an exercise if needed.**

Deep Breathing

I’m not kidding. You would be amazed at what kinds of benefits a deep yoga breath can bring. Aside from carrying blood, oxygen, and healing throughout the body, deep breaths help open the muscles and get them ready for a good stretch. I spend at least five minutes just doing yoga breathing (also called Ujjayi breath or Ujjayi Pranayama).

How to practice Ujjayi breath: First, it’s important to sit or stand straight. Relax your shoulders and let your lungs expand as much as they can on every breath. Breathe deeply through your nose on both the inhale and exhale. The breath should settle at the back of your throat and almost sound like ocean waves or wind. Stay here for as long as you’d like.

Hip Openers

Remember middle-school gym class (I know, I try not to either)? That warmup exercise where you sat with the bottoms of your feet touching in front of you. That’s a basic hip opener. The hips get tight from sitting in a chair, so just letting them open and stretch is so helpful. For more of a stretch, you can lean forward if your body is okay with that movement. If not, simply directing your Ujjayi breath into your hips (think hips while breathing, if it helps) will deepen the stretch. Stay here for a few minutes, until any tightness dissipates.

Shoulder Openers

It’s tempting to think typing only happens with your hands, fingers, and wrists, but everything’s connected. The upper arms and shoulders get in on the fun, and being nice to your entire upper half is a good practice. Keeping the shoulders open and stretched can go a long way toward preventing or mitigating the effects of conditions such as Carpal tunnel and other repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs).

A shoulder opener I like: raise your arm straight up and then bend your elbow so your hand falls behind your opposite shoulder. Grasp your bent elbow with your other hand and breathe into the stretch. Do this for a few breaths and then change sides. Do not pull on your arm. Don’t over-stretch. If it’s painful, ease up or stop completely.

Spine Flexibility

Stand on your head (just kidding). Again, this does not have to be strenuous, and keeping the spine healthy is so, so important. Everything connects to it, after all. For a very basic and beneficial way to keep the spine resilient, stand with your feet planted a bit wider than shoulder-width apart and swing. With your arms loose at your sides, turn left, right, left, right. Don’t force it. Let your body move fluidly. To take pressure off your knees, lift your right heel when you swing left and your left heel when you swing right. I love this stretch and try to get up from my desk every hour or so to swing.

Neck

If you’ve ever stared at your computer screen for too long (if?), you’ve probably felt it in your neck. Holding any part of your body in one place for extended periods of time can result in pain or stiffness. To keep the neck feeling good, try some gentle rolls. Lower your chin to your chest (or as close as you can get to that). Slowly, rotate your neck one way a few times. Stop, then go the other way. If it helps, envision drawing a circle with the tip of your nose. Don’t rush. Don’t strain. If there’s a particular trouble spot, stop there and let it stretch for a few seconds before moving on. The goal is to feel good after, not just shift the pain to a new part of your neck.

Remember

Yoga is very much an individual practice. It will look different for everyone, and it’s not a competition. Only practice stretches or poses that work for your body and don’t cause pain. If you’re doing it right, you may feel some tightness in your muscles. As you stretch more, this tightness will lessen, and you’ll find you can sustain poses or stretches you couldn’t before. It may feel like slow going at first, but don’t give up. It’s worth it. Trust me.

I hope you find this post helpful. Writing is a wonderful pursuit, but it’s no fun if you’re in pain while doing it. Drop me a comment if you have questions about any of these stretches or just to chat about yoga in general. I love talking about the benefits of working a little yoga into life.

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