While standing at the top of a mountain overlooking the ocean with no sounds other than my heavy breathing, I am reminded of how a change of view can bring in a new perspective.
Looking at something from a different angle can let us see things we may have not noticed before. Perhaps you find yourself struggling with your latest knitting project, unsure how it will really look in the end since it is all scrunched up on your needles. Or you are feeling your tension is uneven, or you’re struggling with the pattern directions. In order to gain a new perspective you may need to physically change your position to change the thoughts in your head.
A cluttered mind can be soothed by meditation. If you find sitting in a quiet meditation to be too challenging in the beginning, don’t fret – you don’t need to do it! You can get the same benefit by knitting, changing your scenery or starting a new activity. If I find myself frustrated by some complicated charted colorwork, I’ll switch to a project with soothing a repetitive stitch pattern, like a seed stitch baby blanket or a garter stitch scarf. Because simple is beautiful too.
Yoga, mindfulness and knitting all have one thing in common: they are meditative by nature. Meditation helps us to train our minds. Rather than being controlled by our busy thoughts, through meditation, we are able to control our own mind. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali offers guidance on how to practice yoga and find contentment through meditation. Knitting helps us to learn how to meditate because it brings us to a place of pointed focus, which is one of the first steps towards meditation. By giving our hands the manual task of knitting, we also give that busy part of our brain something to do so we can enjoy the benefits of a calm mind. Often meditation can be challenging because our overactive minds like to distract us. Many times the distractions come in the form of negative thoughts.
There is a sutra or thread of wisdom that helps us learn how to move away from being controlled by negative thoughts (sutra II.33 for those of you interested in looking it up!). The gist of this sutra is that when thinking negative thoughts, bring in positive opposite thoughts. This is called pratipaksha bhavana: cultivating a positive thought each time a negative thought comes in.
For example, you’re knitting a brioche shawl and the increases are confusing you so you’re not sure where in the pattern you are. You feel frustrated and think you’re a bad knitter and you don’t know what you are doing. Stop that thinking right there and tell yourself you’re an amazing knitter and you can do this. Look back on the previous beautiful projects you’ve completed to remind yourself how talented you are. If it is too challenging to switch from negative to positive thoughts, try placing yourself in a nurturing situation.
Find your best knitter friend and they will remind you of your wonderful abilities. The more often you replace your negative thoughts with positive ones, the sooner the negative thoughts will start to fall away all together.
While knitting, notice where your mind wanders. Are the thoughts focused on the stitches? Or perhaps some negative thoughts are creeping in, for example: ‘my stitch tension is uneven’. Each time you notice a negative thought replace it with a positive one, like ‘but my super stretchy bind off is perfect!’
Remember to take a break from knitting every twenty minutes. This break can be thirty seconds or five minutes. In this time shake out your hands and, again, be mindful of your thoughts. Switch your negatives into positives.
This practice is helpful to change your outlook from a negative one to a positive one so that you can feel inspired, hopeful and motivated. It may not heal your hurting hands or cure any other ailments you have. However, you might notice those things that hurt on your body don’t aggravate you quite as much when you have a sunnier outlook.
ABOUT THE Author: Liza Laird
Liza is a spinner and knitter of wool and a lover of handstands. Liza started knitting at the wee age of 8 and hasn’t stopped since. She received formal yoga training in her early 20s in NYC as a 500 HR Registered Yoga Teacher and an 800 HR Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She taught at studios for nearly a decade in NYC and Boston, including Yoga Works and Harlem Yoga Studio.
Liza leads yoga retreats worldwide in places including Bali, Thailand, Italy, Peru, and locally in Vermont and Texas. Liza also hosts workshops on yoga and knitting in the eastern United States when she’s not taking care of her husband and daughter, Tom and Isa, or her dog, Cosmo.