Stitched Together

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While knitting may not give you the same rush as a backbend, this hugely popular hobby has become known as "the new yoga." What does yarn have to do with Downward Dog? "You need to stay present when you knit, even if you are just doing a garter stitch and don't have to pay super-close attention," says Cyndi Lee, director of OM Yoga in New York City and a veteran knitter herself. "Touching the yarn and needles gives us a feeling of being connected to ourselves and our world. This kind of connection is what yoga is all about."

From the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts to Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington, people of all ages are finding the connections between knitting and yoga. "Each allows the practitioner to leave thoughts and distractions behind and focus on a specific object or action," says Tara Jon Manning, author of Mindful Knitting and Compassionate Knitting. Knitting can help still your mind. "And yoga can bring energy and blood flow back to the body after a long period of sitting still," says Jon Manning, whose knitting retreats in Vermont include yoga, daily hikes, and craft instruction.The combination should leave your mind quiet, your body supple, and your holiday shopping list a bit shorter.

A good yarn. Find a yarn to match your values. If you embrace ahimsa, or nonviolence, you may want to try working with sustainable fibers. There's no need to limit yourself to organic cotton and wool, as you'll also find many yarns made from bamboo, corn, hemp, soy, and seaweed. Eco-friendly bamboo knitting needles are available at clover-usa.com and many local knitting shops.

Stock up on all-natural supplies. Lanaknits Designs Hemp for Knitting has 100 percent hemp and hemp-blend yarns in assorted colors,

lanaknits.com; Mango Moon carries unique (and butter soft)

recycled silk yarn from saris, made by otherwise impoverished women and children in Nepal, mangomoonyarns.com; South West Trading Company offers the widest variety of sustainable yarns: organic cotton, milk fiber, soy silk, bamboo, corn, and hemp, soysilk.com.

Try these alternate sources: Blue Sky Alpacas, blueskyalpacas.com; Classic Elite Yarns, classiceliteyarns.com; Earth-Friendly Yarns, earthfriendlyyarns.com; Garthenor Organic Pure Wool, organicwoollies.co.uk; Vermont Organic Fiber Company, vtorganicfiber.com; Paivatar, paivatar.com

Get your needles clacking. A few books to inspire your knitting practice: The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice, by Susan Gordon Lydon; No Sheep for You: Knit Happy with Cotton, Silk, Linen, Hemp, Bamboo & Other Delights, by Amy R. Singer; The Natural Knitter: How to Choose, Use, and Knit Natural Fibers from Alpaca to Yak, by Barbara Albright.