Being able to knit or crochet for long periods of time is a luxury, not only because it means you have the free time to knit, but also because you have the physical and mental health to do so. Taking frequent breaks to stretch your hands, wrists, neck, back and hips will revolutionize your knitting. Your body will feel healthier and move more easily.
I’m not saying you need to crochet or knit while doing crunches, just that bringing mindfulness to your work will help you stay healthy.
When I was younger, I never had pain when knitting. I could knit for hours and never noticed any cricks in my neck, numbness in my hands or pain in my back and hips when I stood up after sitting for a long time. Then, in 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and all that changed. Keeping up with my yoga practice became important not only for my mental health, but so I could continue knitting at all. Before cancer, yoga and knitting were my two favorite things to do, but I did not realize how much I needed the yoga practice to be able to knit.
Now, yoga has become an absolute necessity for me to prepare my body for knitting. To sustain my knitting, I practice regular yoga movements, particularly ones that ensure the health of my hands. This has forced me to think about the relationship between yoga and knitting in a whole new way.
I’ve learned that it’s not just about doing certain stretches, but rather about creating a balance of the mind, body and spirit. This is best achieved by practicing meditation, mindfulness and yoga. The nature of knitting is inherently mindful, and that is why yoga and knitting are such a natural combination. To me, being mindful is being present in the moment without judgment. That is easier said than done. Knitting naturally forces us to be in the present moment, but the “without judgment” bit is the hard part. When I was first learning meditation, I found that by practicing yoga and knitting, I was better able to learn how to be mindful.
Sounds good, right? I know you are already looking up the closest yoga studio to your home. Yoga and meditation classes are wonderful. They help you carve out time during the day and foster a sense of community. But let’s be real — most of us don’t have time to fit in an hour and a half class most days. The great news is that you don’t need to do hours of yoga to reap the benefits. Even five minutes a day can boost your mood, reduce tension, and make you feel awesome overall. Here are five things you can do right now to bring mindfulness to your knitting and help stretch out the kinks from sitting for an extended period of time:
Mudras are hand gestures used in meditation to help channel your energy. The Ganesha Mudra is known to be heart-opening and to relieve muscle tension around that area.
Try it out
Place your knitting or crochet off to the side and sit up tall. Scoot forward on your chair, so you are sitting on the edge of your seat with your feet planted firmly into the ground. Bring your left hand in front of your chest with your thumb towards the ground and the palm facing outwards. Bring your right hand in front of your left with the thumb up toward the ceiling and the palm facing your body. Clasp your fingers together.
For a few moments, be with this mudra while taking deep breaths. On an exhale, without unclasping your hands, gently pull your hands away from each other. You will feel an opening across your chest and arms. Do this five to seven times. Then switch the clasp of your hands and repeat.
Twisting can help reduce neck and back pain, as well as lubricate the spine. No need to do a super deep twist. Gentle side-to-side movements are just as beneficial.
Try it out
Sit with your feet firmly into the ground, inhale deeply and reach your arms overhead. Exhale, twist to the right, bringing your left hand to the outside of your right leg and the right hand to the back of the chair. Inhale, and come back to center. Exhale, twist to the left, bringing your right hand to the outside of your left leg and the left hand to the back of the chair. Repeat a few times from side to side, using one breath per movement.
Feel your spine lengthen with each twist, and use your breath as a point of concentration. Try to alternate your twists three to five times on each side.
Ankle to Knee
Hips become tight from sitting for extended periods of time. This yoga posture can be done seated, standing or lying down. I like to do the seated version in between rows.
Try it out
Sit with your feet firmly into the ground, lift your left ankle and place it over your right knee. Keep your left foot flexed to protect your knee. Stay lifted with a tall spine, or for a deeper hip opener, you can fold forward over your legs. Take a few breaths on one side and then switch.
This pose is a variation on the traditional Downward Facing Dog pose. It helps to lengthen your body and relax the shoulders. It’s a good position to use as a reset.
Try it out
Stand facing your chair. Place your hands on the seat where your bottom just was and walk your feet back until they are directly underneath your hips. Lengthen your hips back and feel your spine elongate. Take a few deep breaths here. Bend one knee at a time and sway your hips side to side.
Reverse Namaste (Anjala Mudra)
This mudra is often done in front of the chest but can also be done behind the back. For the avid knitter or crocheter, pressing the palms of the hands together behind the back offers many benefits, like preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Try it out
While sitting or standing, stretch your arms out to the sides in a t-shape. Turn your thumbs towards the floor so your palms face behind you. Bring your arms down behind your body and flip your fingers up towards your back to bring the palm of your hands together.
(Note: If you can’t get your palms together, never fear! Start by holding opposite elbows or pressing your fists together. Eventually, you will work towards palms pressing together. It’s just a question of how frequently you do it.)
If you feel like exploring these five practices is too much, pick just one to add to your knitting time. Taking a break every twenty minutes can help save the health of your hands, neck, and eyes. Adjust your seat, let your eyes focus on a point in the distance, and bring your mind back to the present moment anytime you notice it has wandered off. Be kind to yourself and have some fun!
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. She 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.