Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Stand Tall: Walking the Mountain, Making Connections

As a prairie girl, I find being surrounded by mountains more than a bit claustrophobic.  I appreciate their beauty and their presence, but I always grit my teeth when we drive through them, especially at points such as Roger's Pass, Kicking Horse Pass or the Crow's Nest. 

When I was a kid, our family visited the site of the Frank Slide.  I'm not sure how it's marked today, but decades ago, you could park on the highway and walk on the rocks.  I remember scrambling over the boulders to read the historical marker, only to discover that I was walking on a mass grave site.  (Most of the victims of the slide remain under the rock.)  I think that's where my respect and fear of those mountains began, at the moment I realized that something as massive as a mountain could come down on you in your sleep and you'd never know what hit you.

Those same mountains are my favourite places on this planet. Each time we reach the foothills heading into the Rockies, my heart lightens.  I've learned to control the fear by taking pictures on the drive, by paying close attention to particular formations, noting how they've changed since we last passed and by choosing to stay in places where I can watch these magnificent creatures at a safe distance.  I do think of them as creatures; mountains are living, breathing entities, carrying winds of constant changes, feeding life in what initially appears to be barren ground.  No one mountain or set of mountains, is like any other:

A section of the Rockie Mountains in Alberta

The Grand Canyon
We were given our first assignment this week, which was to practice and study Tadasana in as many situations as possible. Tadasana is named "Mountain Pose" for obvious reasons: in this asana, we ground ourselves through our feet into the Earth, bringing energy into our legs, our hips, our trunks, through our spines to the top of our heads, as well as through our fingertips up through our arms.  We think of ourselves as solid, rooted.  We practised this in class-when you are grounded in Mountain Pose, it is difficult for someone to move you.

The pose is deceptive; in full Tadasana, you are never still.  Like those mountains, your body makes constant adjustments, to the air, to the ground beneath you, to each unique facet of your being.  Like those mountains, when you are solidly grounded in Tadasana, you can be an imposing body, but you can also be a source of calm, a means of bringing peace to a tense situation.

One of my favourite ways to practice Tadasana is while knitting or spinning.  Spindle spinning lends itself to Tadasana, since standing is a productive way to use a drop spindle.  If you are grounded while you work, you are able to spin for longer periods and you notice shifts in your yarn more quickly.  Spinning in Tadasana requires simplicity.  This is the perfect time for making meditation yarns or for spinning plain singles or smooth, plied basic knitting yarns. 

I admit to a bit of a cheat when I'm knitting; I modify Tadasana into a seated pose, but my feet remain grounded and my body energized as closely as possible to how it would be in full Mountain Pose.  When I knit in Tadasana, my stitch of choice is garter, that basic one stitch pattern of knit stitch following knit stitch after knit stitch.  Many knitters find garter stitch boring (as do some practitioners of Tadasana), but if you pay attention, that simple stitch opens a world of possibilities for body, mind and practical purposes.  Many of us have been or are warmed by garter stitch scarves.  For first time knitters, it is usually the first stitch learned after casting on. When we're tired, or worried or need something to soothe our hearts, knitting in garter stitch provides calm and rhythm to our frantic lives. 

Like Tadasana, garter stitch grounds us.  Like Tadasana, just when we think we have garter stitch mastered, we discover that we've gone off track, dropped a stitch or faltered in a row.  Like Tadasana, garter stitch keeps us humble.  In Tadasana and garter stitch, we discover that we may never master the subtle points for complete grounding, but the journey is always interesting.

Garter stitch with holes is still garter stitch, is it not?



  1. I've never considered actively engaging in yoga postures while I'm knitting. I do try to focus on my posture and overall feeling of my body, because I have a tendency to slouch if I don't. Do you have a hard time dividing your concentration between a stitch pattern and remaining grounded or do you alternate your focus?

  2. I approach the process as a meditation exercise, setting myself into a posture and trying to maintain awareness of that as I knit. Of course, it's like anything else--I'm always losing my awareness and having to shift back.
    I don't always practice when I knit or spin. Sometimes, it just nice to curl up on the couch and get to it.

  3. I was just thinking about this as I slouched over my laptop last night. I was thinking how my bad posture was exactly what we had learned NOT to do in tadasana. (No wonder my shoulders were so rounded.) So thank you for the inspiration! I'll try to incorporate more of a seated tadasana now.

    And I loved reading the comparison to the rocky kind of mountain. Who knew there could be so much inherent energy in something that is perceived as so still.

  4. That's why I love being there--those masses are solid, but teeming with life!