Knitters. Ashtangis. Knashtangis. You know who you are.
The two practices are so compatible that if one was to make a venn diagram of ashtangis and knitters, it would look like this:
Both practices take time and patience and dedication to learn and are famously frustrating at first. Remember being stuck learning the sun salutations, watching as everyone else cruised along through complicated practices that they made seem so easy? So it goes with knitting. I’ve taught a few people and you always have to talk them down from starting with something übercomplicated involving multiple colors and fancy bobbles and cables. Gently, gently you try to steer them away from the heavily-textured Aran sweater or fancy plaid-patterned cardigan and tenderly suggest they start with a hat. A plain hat. And they are always so disappointed! until they actually try the knitting and then they get how long it takes for the fingers to get the motion of the knit and the purl, to learn to ‘read’ the knitting as it grows, to cast on and off, decrease and increase. There is so much to learn! Same with the standing sequence. I’m still learning things seven years in.
I like to teach people to knit because I was the same: overly eager, overly ambitious. Completely lacking patience while rushing into projects without the necessary skills.
I first learned when I was 23. I cleaned houses to make money and one of my clients was an elderly lady who liked to school me in things like the proper way to make a bed. She also decided that I needed to know how to knit. This was long before the resurgence ten years ago that remade knitting into a hipster activity. Back then it was firmly stuck in old lady land. I went and got some crappy yarn and a set of straight needles from a dreary shop filled with middle-aged women in frumpy cardigans and started learning. I liked it OK but I was a distracted youth so I learned but didn’t love.
The next time I picked up needles was a few years later when I convinced myself I was ready for a sweater and made a cardigan for a boyfriend. A purple cardigan. A purple ill-fitting scratchy heavy lumpen cardigan. The fact that I finished it at all was the only positive about that experience. It still exists to shame me because I married the boyfriend and he refuses to part with it.
A little while later I found myself living in a new town with no friends and a lot of time on my hands. What to do to fill those long lonely hours? Why knit of course! I bought a book of ridiculously difficult sweaters, picked out one of the most absurdly complicated designs—yes, yes, a plaid cardigan—forked over a huge amount of cash for the dozens of colors of yarn and studiously ignoring the shopkeeper’s frowny face (she had inquired about my skill level when she saw the pattern and wasn’t pleased with my answer) embarked on the most frustrating project of my knitting life.
Because I am no quitter and drive myself quite hard (sound familiar ashtangis?) I finished that damn cardigan and it was awful. Completely unwearable. The back was too short because I knit too tightly trying to wrangle the colorwork, having zero experience with colorwork of any kind. The fronts were too long because by then I had a looser hand. The sleeves didn’t match in length. And it was hideous. Bulky and unflattering and PLAID. So very very plaid.
I stuffed it away in a bag and didn’t knit again for nearly ten years until I found myself back in that same town once again still with no friends and decided, deja vu-like, that knitting was the answer. Except this time it was. Because I took a beginner’s class, where we made a felted bag. From there I progressed steadily and slowly, increasing skills with each new project, learning everything I hadn’t learned before when I was so eager and pigheaded. There were duds of course but more and more the things I made were not only wearable but actually nice. And I made friends! Going to a ‘knitting night’ each week for years, until it was down to just me and Nan and we decided to ditch the knitting in favor of wine and whine. Serendipitously, this is when knitting got hip and the yarns got sexier and the patterns more creative and fashionable too. At long last I was a knitter.
So it went with yoga. I started young, quit a bunch of times after being too ambitious, finally stumbling onto ashtanga when I had enough maturity to settle down and learn it step by step. Not frustration-free, that’s not possible when learning something new, but enough to stick with it.
So now I’m a knashtangi. Equally devoted. And I think there are more of you out there. Or at least there should be. I can’t teach you yoga, but I can teach you how to cast on and knit and purl.