Knitting – alternative yoga for your brain!

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Not so long ago I noticed I was quite alone at knitting in public places or anywhere really. People were giving me that weird look wondering what sort of alien species I might be. Actually about 20 years ago I learned how to knit in school like everybody else at that time. But unlike most of my peers, I found pleasure in it and I thought it is so cool that I can make unique accessories and garments – yes, adolescents thrive to stand out and to be unique and unforgettable!

And even though there was a gap for a while in the knitting & crochet sector of crafts, I am so pleased to discover that more and more people dedicate time to learn and to practice this wonderful craft again. It is not just amazing through the products one may create, but also through the incredible health benefits one can enjoy.

Knitting and crocheting are actually a form of mental yoga. Once the motor skills well put in place, one can knit or crochet on an automated pilot, fingers moving and brain relaxing. When this happens, a slowdown in body rhythms such as heart rate and breathing can be noticed, accessing subconscious information becomes easier, and states like daydreaming may occur naturally.

Scientists have dedicated time to research the benefits of motor activities such as knitting and crocheting. For example, Mayo Clinic (2011) reports that knitting may reduce Alzheimer’s risk by 30-50% and to slow down mild cognitive impairment. So, even though there is no actual cure for Alzheimer, there are things that can slow down the cognitive decay and to improve life quality by stimulating the brain with hand-eye coordination, with learning new motor skills or developing the existent ones, with memorizing patterns etc.

Here are some benefits of knitting and crocheting:

  • Manual activities are a way to relief stress and to obtain creative fulfillment;
  • The repetitive pattern is having a similar effect as meditation, but it results in a tangible product that can enhance self-esteem;
  • It can lower heart rate and blood pressure, once one gets beyond the initial learning curve;
  • Also used in therapy to help smokers give up their habits, cope with health crisis and serious illness of a family member;
  • Can even enhance social skills, there is less smoking, snacking while having the hands busy with the needles and hooks;
  • Keeps the mind busy for people who tend to ruminate about their problems and who might end up with eating disorders due to it;
  • Making things helps the older person feel productive even when Alzheimer’s takes other skills away;
  • Knitting and crochet keep the hands active for those with “fidgety hands”;
  • Sensory stimulation through the yarn evokes positive feelings and can serve as a form of self-expression.

Should you want to experiment knitting as alternative yoga here is the recipe: select a pleasant yarn and appropriate needles, set a time and place for a session of 15 to 20 minutes, chose a comfortable setting, add some relaxing music if you please.  Depending on your skill level, chose an appropriate pattern, that will allow you to perform it easily and give you a sense of accomplishment. Remember that learning new patterns does not make part of the yoga process, as it is creating new connections in your brain and involves a mental challenge. For achieving relaxation through knitting, you should be in the flow – letting the hands create through automatized movements. Busy hands equal free to focus on here and now.

Knit! Be present! Create!

The Strickcafe takes place every first Thursday of the month in Haus der Religionen in Bern from 9 till 11 AM. Free of charge.

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I started my journey by studying Psychology (at Bucharest University, Romania). As I advanced through the Master and Coach programmes with my NLP studies (at the Kutschera Institut, Austria), it became clearer and clearer that this is what I want to do with my life – accompany people in their journey towards a better life, full of joy and positive feelings. I’ve been working as a coach for the past 10 years and I’ve created and implemented personal developed programmes for children together with partners from Romania and Switzerland.

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