My children started off their educational lives in a Waldorf school. Educating head, heart, and hands is at the center of everything they do there. Music and rhythm are used to teach math, knitting to teach reading, using the whole body to form letters as they learn the alphabet, reverence for all kinds of transitions and occasions. I'm a big fan. I could go on, but that's not the actual topic of this post.
I recently had a Skype session with my friend, Patty, who, among other things, taught handwork at my children's Waldorf school in Michigan. Our session was about foot health. I mentioned just how many muscles are in the feet (25% of your muscles are below your ankles) and why it's so important to move all those muscles more than we do. Because Patty's always making art with her hands (knitting, felting, sculpting, painting), I mentioned that there about as many muscles from the wrist to the fingers. Fifty percent of your muscles are in your hands and feet!
I then went on to explain how using those muscles more is what pumps blood out of those parts and back to your heart. Yep. It's not your heart vacuuming the blood back up from your extremities. It's muscles being pushed and pulled via movement that presses on the multitude of arterioles, the teeny tiny blood vessels in your muscles. That pressure pushes blood back to the heart. It also helps remove cellular waste from the area. So we're talking lymphatic health AND heart health, all by moving your hand and fingers, feet and toes in more ways.
Patty loved this information because, of course, she knows all kinds of benefits that come from using your hands. Handwork is so important to your mental, spiritual, and physical health. This particular bit of of heart health education was a fun addition to all her knowledge.
You know how if you're doing something that requires long periods of time spent with your hands in one position (typing, chopping, knitting, name your activity), you'll stop and periodically shake your hands out? Moving them deliberately and slowly is a better way to address that stiffness and soreness, and promote healing and balance.
Next time you're at your computer for hours (or working on knitting that sweater or fixing the deck or painting a bedroom), take a movement break. Try holding your hands in front of you, palms up. Slowly, moving all your fingers at the same time, curl your fingers in until you make a fist. Slowly uncurl them and spread the fingers wide. It should take several seconds to curl them in and several seconds to uncurl them. Make sure to keep your hand in line with your wrist; don't bend at the wrist. Repeat this process 5 - 10 times. Turn your hands so the palms face each other and do the same thing 5 - 10 times. Now turn your hands to face palms toward the floor. Repeat the same movement 5 - 10 times. Your fingers, hands and forearms will be warm from the increased muscle use and increased circulation. And I'll bet you'll return to your work for longer than you might have if you'd just stopped to quickly shake out your hands.
I'm including a video I made some time ago that has a couple more ideas for ways to engage your fingers, hands, and forearms. Give it a go.
Do it for your hands.
And for your heart.
Deep, and not so deep, thoughts on bodies, movement, yoga, art, shoes, parenting, dogs. You know, life.