For those of you living in this modern day with kids, it is highly likely that you have heard the words; creeper, villager, blaze, Steve, Endermen, glowstone, slimes, portals, mods etc. uttered from your child’s mouth. Perhaps pixelated boxy images are coming to mind now; strange 3D worlds with snow capped mountains, chickens, pigs, sheep, and psychedelic looking mushrooms. Perhaps you have watched your child navigate through these worlds, cutting down trees to make wood planks, digging underground to find coal and killing sheep for the wool to make a bed to sleep in at night.
For those of you still in the dark, I am talking about the magically addicting and imaginative world of Minecraft! This game came out around 2011 and since then children all over the world have been glued to their screens, busy gathering, crafting and creating their own unique worlds.
While I was never much of a fan of video games and their ability to turn perfectly good kids and adults into bug-eyed zombies, Minecraft has convinced me otherwise. For the first few years I watched my stepson play and build and learn words like lapis lazuli and obsidian. How cool and how random, I thought. The graphics were pretty rudimentary, but at least it wasn’t too violent.
As my boy became more and more immersed in Minecraft, I found my own journey drawing me deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of yoga. I completed my 200hr certification in power yoga and fell madly in love with everything that was a part of that world. I practiced daily, I read and researched, I took endless classes and workshops and constantly created new playlists and sequences. My boy also practiced daily, watched Youtube videos to figure out how to build Nether portals, and make colored dye out of plants. His buildings became more complex and intricate and he learned how to fly and tame wolves. My boy and I lived and breathed our separate lives, until the highly resisted day when he convinced me to join his world.
My husband had joined in a few months prior, so as a family now, we would enter our creative world named Bazooka Sir and spend hours building our village, complete with individual homes that were connected by a roller coaster. We had a water slide, an iceskating rink, a horse barn, a grand hotel, even an outdoor yoga studio and to my dislike, way too many villagers. Villagers, were these bald, big-nosed, characters who walked around with stiff little arms crossed saying MEH, MEH, MEH. They tended to get in the way wherever you were working, and they really seemed utterly useless to me. So I built a moat around my yoga studio, planted trees, built book shelves, filled with all the famous texts of course, lit torches, laid down yellow wool yoga mats and floated up to marvel at my work. Everything seemed perfect in my world, until my boy asked, “Well, if you don’t like villagers, who is going to take your yoga classes?”
I was dumbfounded! I had gotten so caught up in making my space so perfect and secure that I had forgotten the main reason to have a studio…to serve the villagers! I couldn’t fill those yellow mats all by myself! The whole point was to create a space of beauty where people/ villagers could come to enjoy the tranquility.
So, humbly the “me” turned into “we” and my boy and I spawned hundreds of villagers, who crowded out of the village factory and ran MEHing around the yellow wool mats, not paying any attention to the gold suited teacher floating between them. They were by far my most difficult students. They all crowded near the moat trying to figure out a way to get out of the studio, only to be poked repeatedly by the cactuses, which seemed to be very disturbing for my boy, “they are getting hurt!” he said, “We should get rid of the cactuses, they’re hurting them!”
While the whole situation seemed ridiculously absurd, I realized that I was so grateful to have students of any and all kinds, particularly human ones, because without them I would not be able to do what I love! I would not be able to share those spaces of beauty and love; those moments in time when we grow and change and expand together.
So be it Minecraft, work or life that keeps you glued to your computer screen day after day, I have come to notice a strange connection with those villagers. As we sit hunched over, we too tend to suffer from stiff arms, stiff legs, tight shoulders and necks, and perhaps even low back pain. Our bodies were not designed to sit like that for long periods of time, just as villagers were not designed to participate in yoga. Luckily we have the ability to do something about it!
Here are some of my favorite stretches that you can do at your desk or anywhere/anytime throughout your day, to keep you from becoming anything like a villager:
- Kneel down on the floor. Spin your fingers back to face your knees, and spread them wide. This may be where you stay, feeling the stretch in your inner forearms and wrists. If you want to deepen the stretch begin to bend your elbows allowing your palms to slowly lift off the ground. This will begin to activate the stretch your hands and knuckles. Go to your edge, meaning to a place where you feel a deep stretch but not so far that you feel pain, and then stay there. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
- Stay seated or stand upright, interlace your fingers in front of you and squeeze your palms together. Begin to rotate your hands clockwise 10-15 times, then counterclockwise for 10-15 times.
- Stay seated or stand upright, once again, interlace your fingers in front of you. This time turn your palms to face forward. Gently begin to lift your palms towards the ceiling, drawing your biceps next to your ears. Relax your shoulders down your back. Gaze in front of you and breathe for 5-10 breaths.
- Place your palms facing down, shoulder distance apart on your desk, kitchen counter or any other stable flat surface about 3-4ft off the ground. Begin to walk your feet back while you lower your torso, keeping your arms extended out in front of you. Try to bring your body as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. Relax your head down between your biceps. Depending on how tight your hamstrings are, you can always bend your knees as much as you need. Try to relax your shoulders down your back, away from your ears. Breathe.
- Stay seated or stand upright, interlace your hands behind your low back and draw your palms together. Lift up through your chest, drawing your shoulder blades together and down your back. Allow your head to fall over to the right and hold for 5-10 breaths, then repeat to the left. Keep your palms actively reaching together and down towards the ground.
There are hundreds of different stretches to help relieve the tension and stiffness that we hold after a long day at the desk. In actuality every single yoga posture can be beneficial in one way or another. However, while we don’t have to quit our jobs and become hermits who mediate and practice yoga for eternity, doing a few stretches and deepening our breath a couple times throughout the day is a huge leap towards a consciously bountiful life. Just as in Minecraft, we have the ability to create the type of world we want to live in!