If you have a 9-to-5 job, your hands work out a lot (all that typing—ouch). If you’re anything like me, you’re not stretching your hands nearly enough to reward them for all their hard work. That’s when you know it’s time for the fist-to-fan stretch, a tension-relieving flick of the wrist.
The exercise/stretch consists of balling up your fists, then flicking all of your fingers open. Lindsay Pirozzi, a New York City-based yoga instructor, says the movement is so great because it’s a twofer. “It strengthens the handgrip and forearm muscles, needed for various activities, while also improving finger dexterity, strengthening your grip, and improving your wrist mobility,” says Pirozzi. This makes it a useful addition to your toolbox whether you type all day, play a musical instrument like the guitar, or do a lot of strength training workouts that involve gripping heavy weights, she says. To do it, just squeeze your hands into a fist and then pop them open repeatedly for 30 seconds or more.
The fist-to-fan stretch goes beyond your hand muscles, though: It’s well-known among physical therapists, yoga teachers, and stretching experts as a way to release the tension that builds up in your body between email one and email one-million each day. “This is also a relaxation technique that significantly helps to reduce tension that accumulates in the arms and shoulders,” she says. In other words, it’s a good thing to do the moment you get up from your desk to signal the end of the workday to reset before you begin the process of unwinding.
While this may seem like a small ritual, it could be the difference from carrying the stress of the day into your nightly routine or leaving it at your desk. And day after day, this can make a huge difference. “Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders,” says the American Psychological Association.
Just stand up, do a little wrist-flicking, and go on your merry way.
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