One of the finest basket-weaving traditions in the world exists - partly - right here in Sonoma County: baskets woven by members, almost always women, of the Pomo tribe. There are Pomo baskets held by many private collectors and in museums around the world.
Pomo baskets have the name according to many of being the finest in the world. Evidently basket manufacture is no mere utilitarian routine to them…but an art, the mastery of which is a stimulus and whose possibilities are played with…These served as gifts and treasures…
A.L. Kroeber, 1919
These baskets were both utilitarian and decorative, serving as everyday gathering, burden, storage and cooking vessels, and also as highly-decorative gifts for special occasions. Weaving these baskets took know-how, painstaking attention, patience and artistry. Large decorative baskets could take a year or more to complete.
Thinking about this tradition the other day, it struck me that in many ways weaving a yoga practice is similar: you gather your materials – in class from your teacher usually, but maybe from videos or even books - you store them carefully, and then when the time is right you begin, one tiny stitch at a time, to weave a personal practice together. At first there’s very little to see, even within a single pose, mostly a bunch of loose ends sticking out, no real shape, no pattern that is discernible. But with patience and time, one pose after another one practice session after another, day by day, slowly a structure begins to take shape, a design begins to emerge.
You’re not trying to make a big splash here, only a basket, so you go slowly, breaking each pose down into its smallest fibers of observation and body-feeling, and then patiently re-weaving those into a coherent whole, and then weaving each pose onto the finely split willow or sedge running through that day’s practice, and so on and on. And if you persevere long enough then someday you’ll have both a useful container and also an artistic expression of who you are.
People frequently ask me what these ceremonial baskets hold. They did not have to hold anything, because the basket itself was all that was needed. The basket contained the prayers and the wonderful, good energy that made it a ceremonial basket.
Susan Billy, Pomo basket weaver, 1996