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Knitting on the brain

Posted Sep 14 2008 2:42pm

Cionorig_ClaraBoothLuce Those who know me well know I take my knitting seriously. I started knitting when I got sick as a way to fight against the numbness in my hands. It wasn't long before I found another fantastic benefit of knitting. It is a soothing form of meditation that helped me cope with a very stressful illness.

Knitting is meditation? Absolutely! Knitting puts me into a sort of trance. I get caught up in the rhythmic repetition of counting stitches and clicking needles. This sort of rhythmic activity is exactly what researchers have in mind when they praise the benefits of meditation. According to researchers, 20 minutes of meditative activity like knitting can reduce your heart and breathing rate and even slow brain waves.

I like the way Dr. James S. Gordon, a professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown University, put it in an article on spinning: meditation is “like taking a little vacation from the way our mind works.”

Meditation even delivers a dose of energy into your brain’s happiness center. Just ask the researchers at the University of Wisconsin's Keck Laboratory now conducting tests with Tibetan monks. MRIs showed that meditation created profound activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area associated with happiness and positive thoughts and emotions. This sort of brain activity is especially intense among longtime meditation practitioners.

Cionorig_Nefertiti The Bhagavad Gita praises work done “in the calm of self surrender,” without anxiety over the results, work for its own sake. I’m down with that. But being a westerner with soft spot for style, I do get a thrill over the results of knitting. When I first started knitting I created a series of handbags that were so popular I started my first business, CionOriginals. I had a blast making these one-of-a-kind bags named after famous women.

Since starting WELLalarm I’ve had to put CionOriginals on hold. I’ll still do special projects, though, like bridesmaids’ handbags for FashionMista Katie's wedding.

And I do plenty of personal knitting. It keeps my hands alive, keeps my spirits up, and it led me to the entrepreneur path. I owe a lot to knitting.

Talk to me about knitting! Here are a few of my favorite resources.

My favorite online knitting store is kpixie.com.

My favorite knitting store in New York City is Gotta Knit at 14 East 34th Street (between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue).

I love the free patterns at Knitty.com.

I just found out about Head Huggers, a charity that donates hand-knit caps to cancer patients.

The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine focuses on how meditative activities can help heal the body.

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