Oct 13 / Manaia Carswell

ARTICLE / A Body for Weaving

 This article was written by Manaia Carswell
Manaia is a weaver and Kaimanaaki with the Hetet School
Manaia Carswell icing her sore weaving arm
Disclaimer - I am not a health professional, I am merely a passionate weaver on a journey to get the best possible body for weaving. I take no responsibility for anyone other then myself. Please do your own research before trying any of the tips in this article.
Like anything in life, weaving takes practice. As you practice, your muscles develop muscle-memory, they get stronger and you become more efficient. Weaving can also cause repetitive injuries and stress on the body. 

I'm a relatively 'young' 36 and I've suffered from a few injuries in my life so far:carpal tunnel while pregnant, a ruptured ligament in my knee while a teenager - which led to a bad back and hips. More recently it's been tendonitis in my wrist and planter fasciitis in my feet.

Then I found Hot Yoga. It was gentle, and strenuous, and hard, and relaxing and just exactly what I needed. My tendonitis cleared up, as did my planter fasciitis. More than anything, Hot Yoga taught me to BREATHE and LISTEN and ACCEPTANCE.

BREATHE - deep breathing is one of the best ways to promote your relaxation response. It can also slow down your heartbeat and stabilise your blood pressure.

LISTEN - Listen to your body or your 'self' - it is telling you what it needs. Don't push yourself to breaking point.

ACCEPTANCE - It is what it is! Don't beat yourself up for something you can't change. You are meant to be exactly where you are in this moment.

Since I've started weaving, like many weavers, I've had wrist and arm issues. 

For me, this then corresponded to shoulder, neck and back issues. My Carpal Tunnel came back - the pain would regularly wake me up in the middle of the night. I developed headaches and an extremely large 'knot' of muscles around my shoulder blades.

The worst weaving injury to date was a 'trigger thumb' and I ultimately needed a cortisone injection. This was my wake up call. You are only allowed 3 cortisone injections in your life and at the age of 35 I had already used up one!

I thought to myself,

How do I get my body to the right state so I can weave as much as I like and NOT HURT MYSELF?

With this in mind I started trying all sorts of different treatments to find one that would suit me long term. I kept up the Hot Yoga, tried Reiki, Mirimiri, Acupuncture, and regular massage therapy. However, they were all costing me a lot of $dollars and I couldn't afford to have regular treatments. I am a big believer in self-management and preventative care.

This year I tried something new:

I now go to PT or personal training 4x a week, where the main focus for me is to get in shape so I can weave.

The stronger my upper body is, the easier it is to weave. The fitter I am, the easier it will be to weave. The healthier I am, the easier it will be to weave. 

Throughout everything I do - having a body for weaving is my underlying drive.

I have collected a few tips along the way that have really helped me.


Sleeping flat with no pillow.

This helps blood flow/circulation. This pretty much cured my carpal tunnel. I still wake up with numb hands sometimes, especially after a hard day weaving or prepping, but if I spend at least half the night sleeping flat I am doing my body a huge favour.

Ice Baths

These hurt like heck, but it really helps with sore forearms, wrists and hands.
  • Have a bucket or bin (must be big enough to fit your arm past the elbow)
  • Fill with a bag of ice and cold water.
  • Have ready a towel with a hot water bottle ready to go.
  • Immerse your arm - count for 5 minutes - take out and slowly warm arm up using the hot water bottle. BUT DO NOT PLACE DIRECTLY ON SKIN - use the towel as a barrier.

Work on your posture

I have to constantly remind myself to pull my shoulders back. this has helped me get the middle of my back stronger which has helped my shoulders and shoulder blades. I just imagine my mum telling me to stand up straight!! 

Yoga poses

My fave Yoga poses are extended child's pose and downward facing dog.

Each one of these are brilliant for stretching out the hands, arms, shoulders, neck, going right down your back. If you have rotator cuff issues, then extended child's pose to the left or right can help.

Supplements/Vitamins help.Large heading 3

Especially Magnesium! I take Magnesium tablets at night (they also help me sleep) along with Fish Oil, and Vit C.

When I have had a busy day weaving I also use Magnesium Creme before bed.

Copper Bracelets

I have a copper bracelet on each wrist. This also encourages blood flow and circulation. It doesn't work for everyone but I noticed a change almost immediately.

Drink lots of water!

Everyone says this. Now I'm saying it!

Make sure you take regular breaks while weaving

Get up, stretch, have a drink, walk around.

I break my weaving down 'do 3 rows then you can stop' that sort of thing. No point in pushing yourself too hard. The only person you will hurt is yourself. 

Did you know your head weighs approx 7kg?

One of my go-to stretches is to stand up straight and then slowly bend over and reach for my toes. The release in my neck and upper back/shoulders is immediate and feels great!  Try this stretch to give your shoulders and back a break from carrying all that weight.

Be kind to yourself

Wear gloves if that will protect your hands more. If it is a muka day for me I sometimes end up wearing a plaster on one of my fingers just to protect it. 

Have you ever heard of rolling your feet over a tennis ball?

Try lying on the floor and use a ball under sore shoulders and roll away. Or use a rolled up towel under your shoulder blades, have your arms up in the air and slowly lower them to the left and then to the right. Feels blissful!

Diet and Nutrition

Some foods are inflammatory. I have done no research as yet into this but would welcome any insights!
Please don't think that to be a good weaver you have to join Yoga or do personal training or anything like that!

These are just the ramblings/findings of a super passionate weaver, who was getting frustrated with her own body, and also getting worried about how she could keep this body doing what she wanted it to do - which is to weave for the rest of my life!

Basically at the end of the day, it is up to each of us to find what works for us and to walk our own path. If anything here helps you, please let me know.

What do you do to help manage your body while weaving?