top 10 reasons to stitch & stretch

We're closing in on the date for my first ever Stitch & Stretch workshop (yay!) and in preparation for the day, I've been compiling all of the compelling evidence out there in favor of moving and making. While there are so so so many reasons beyond this list, this is a pretty good start in my opinion :).

Highlighted here, the wonderfully soft and bulky Merino Ranger from Echoview Fiber Mill being knit up into a brioche cowl... in tree pose, because obviously I knit while I practice yoga! 

Highlighted here, the wonderfully soft and bulky Merino Ranger from Echoview Fiber Mill being knit up into a brioche cowl... in tree pose, because obviously I knit while I practice yoga! 

There really isn't an order of importance here, because they're all pretty fab, so here we go - in no particular order!

Top 10 Reasons to Stitch & Stretch

10. Improve Coordination

I have to admit, when I first started stitching and stretching, I was pretty awkward. With stitching, I couldn't figure out how to hold my hands while juggling the yarn (and live stitches!), and my tension was all over the map. In stretching, I constantly got my right and left confused (okay, that still happens), I'd be concentrating so hard I clenched my teeth, and I just didn't feel in sync. But with practice, both activities got easier as my hands, eyes, legs, body, and brain all learned the way. (I still can't do either with my eyes closed, but I can imagine a day where that maaaaay be possible!). I'm not going to get all braggy about my coordination skills at this point, but I will say that I've seen improvement in my coordination and body awareness even outside of these activities, and I'm much happier (and much less clumsy) as a result! 

9. Fight Aging

This is not an anti-aging gimmick, folks. Stitching and stretching have both been applauded for their role in helping people stay 'young' by assisting with memory formation and retrieval. Being able to recall patterns/sequences/poses/techniques and repeating them over and over again is intellectually stimulating for the brain and can even stave off age-related cognitive decline. It's never too early - or late - to protect your brain from aging. 

8. Social Connection

Have you ever been to a yoga class or a stitch night? They have a totally different feeling than a home practice or knitting in front of the TV in the living room, don't they? Not to say one is better than the other, (alone vs. in community) but I've found that a healthy mix is really beneficial. (And that's saying a lot since I'm a self-confirmed introvert!) Crafting and doing yoga in a group setting, or even with just one other person, brings a different energy to the activity - and often lends itself to learning, teaching, and new perspectives. Sharing an interest with others is engaging and enlightening. Give it a try! 

7. Help Cope with Chronic Pain

I do not know first hand what it is like to manage chronic pain and associated symptoms, but I have read reports that engaging in craft and mindful movement practices, like yoga, can help. Chronic pain is often more than just a physical experience, it can also lead to depression, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness. While stitching and stretching may not relieve the physical discomforts of chronic pain, both activities can increase feelings of self-efficacy, or one's ability to succeed, in addition to increasing confidence and decreasing rumination. 

6. Boost Brainpower

I'm not going to say you'll be the next Einstein (although I did read that he was rumored to knit in between projects!), but moving and making both have brain boosting properties. Engaging in new and different activities, such as learning craft techniques or trying different exercise movements, challenge the brain. And that's a good thing! Our brains thrive in their ability to adapt, learn, strategize, and solve problems. These are the kinds of boosts we should seek on a daily basis. 

5. Activate Creativity

Creativity and crafting go hand in hand, but creativity and yoga? Yes! I absolutely love to get creative on my yoga mat! Whether I add some dance moves to my home practice, or transition into a pose with a new prospective in a studio class, I like to approach yoga with a creative and curious mindset. Since we know what we like the best, and we know what feels better in our own body, it only makes sense that we would move and make 'outside the box' to align with our creative nature! 

4. Reduce Stress

If you're stressed or anxious, there's a good chance that your sympathetic nervous system is calling the shots in the form of "fight" or "flee." But certain types of moving and making have been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, whose main directives are "rest" and "digest." The rhythymic qualities of both activities actually elicit the 'relaxation response.' I talk more about the ways in which stitching and stretching reduce stress and induce the relaxation response here and here. (It's a very popular topic!) But basically, think of the way in which you practice these calming activities as an "un-winding" of body and mind tension (even if you are, in fact, winding up yarn or twisting your body!).

3. Promote Achievement

Ever feel like you have a superpower because you know how to craft or do some wonderful stretches? You should! Not everyone chooses a path of creative exploration, and no matter where you are along the journey, it's reason for celebration. What I've noticed about both stitching and stretching is that the more I accomplish, the more I want to try. Even when it takes me years of practice to sorta kinda get the hang of something, the feeling of achievement is always there in the baby steps along the way. 

2. Upgrade Mood

Let's face it, we can all benefit from a little upgrade in the mood department from time to time, right? If you're feeling bluesy or blah, some clicks of the needles or a couple of minutes on your yoga mat may just be the thing to turn your frown upside down. It's hard doing something that you love (while it's reducing your stress, fighting aging, activating creativity and so much more) without the side effect of a boost in your mood. Trust me on this one. 

1.  Enhance Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a quality that is often associated with meditation. Yoga and knitting are also likened to meditation, and one of the reasons for this is because they share the aspect of mindfulness. But what exactly is mindfulness? If you take the word at face value, it can sound like what you don't want - a full mind - but while mindfulness encompasses a consciouness of feelings, thoughts, and sensations, it does so with present moment awareness. That is to say, without judgement. Mindfulness is the absence of harboring thoughts of the past, or projecting worries of the future; rather, it is accepting and being fully engaged with the present. While stitching and stretching, this state of mindfulness is often achieved, or at the very least, glimpsed. But as yogis always say, what you work on while you're "on" your mat, you also work on "off" your mat - the more time you spend engaging in a mindful way during a mindful activity, the more present moment awareness you'll be able to bring to other areas of your life.  

So how was the top 10 for you? Was it all basically a reminder, or did you read something you haven't seen before? As I said at the beginning of this post, this list is far from comprehensive. Do you have any other reasons for moving and making? I'd love to know in the comments below! Until next time friends...

PS. Want to experience all these benefits (and more)? Join me at my first workshop, August 25, 2018 at Echoview Fiber Mill! Follow this link to register.