20120723

(Why) Juggling for Programmers (and other computer people)

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No, this is not a tutorial (but I do have written the standard steps to learn below). I began learning to juggle very recently. I just want to answer a possible "why"?

I've always been fascinated by juggling, and every time I wanted to eat more than 2 small oranges I'd try my hand at juggling them. Always followed by bowing and picking them from the ground, of course.

A few weeks ago I was in Dublin for a few days, and in a bookstore I saw a pack of juggling balls (3 balls) and promptly bought them. With them, a small leaflet explained the method, and as soon as I was back home I tried to learn the trick. I'll give you a quick overview:
  • Even if I know it sounds lame, start with one ball, from hand to hand. You have to get a knack for the height and arch. The throw is not up, but up and to the direction of your other hand. Every time you throw, think "throw".
  • When you are confortable with one-handed throws, pick a ball in each hand. Throw your first as before, and as soon as the ball reaches its maximum height, throw your other ball as before (and think "throw" as we did before). Repeat this an awful lot. Get the hang for the timing, height and getting used to thinking "throw".
  • After a while, you will want to throw three balls. Okay. Start with 2 balls in your weak hand (left if you are right handed and right if you are left handed)). Start by throwing one from the left and then one from the right just you did in the previous step. Now, when the first ball lands in your right hand, your second ball should be in the topmost position. Now is the moment to throw the next ball! Don't worry if it falls. Get used to throwing it. Thinking (or saying aloud
  • Rinse and repeat... And then get to throw your fourth ball from the right hand. Then your fifth...



But what's the point? Of course, it's fun to watch, and maybe it is fun to do for a while. But, in the long term?



I can't be sure, I'm just a data point and I've been in it for just shy of 3 weeks (on and off, since in July I'm doing quite a lot of The Fancy Puffin work and it cuts my "fun" time.) But this is what I found.

First thing I noticed, juggling clears my mind pretty effectively. It is not as good as a good meditation session, but while you are juggling (or at least, in the beginning) you can't think of much else. I practised for a few minutes each night

After a few days I noticed something else. My back felt straighter, and I had less back and shoulder pain. When you are juggling you have to keep your back very straight, stand up and move your arms. Something most programmers and people working with computers don't.

I don't know if both these secondary effects will last long. But I thought some other fellow geeks would be interested.
Written by Ruben Berenguel