We are so lucky to live in an area that allows us to delight in the pleasures of growing endless varieties of food and flowers in our gardens. For many of us gardening is a practice like yoga; it is an opportunity to enter into communion with the same energy we find in asana, in pranayama, and in meditation. There is satva, lucidity, in the sweetness of a tomato off the vine, still warm from the sun, or in the vibrancy of lupines or the sweet scent of peony. Our practice as gardeners is much like our practice as yogis; we are nurturing and supporting vitality, protecting it and nourishing it, and cultivating space for it. It isn’t difficult to relate the experiences of our yoga practices with those in the garden yet often we loose sight of our physical bodies while in the garden. In order to give support to our plants we sometimes forget to support our muscles, bones, and joints. Much of the work we do in the garden can cause soreness in our bodies. Luckily it is possible to bring your yoga practice into the garden! Jo Schneiderman, a teacher at Karuna, has put together the following recommendations to help you support your body before, during, and after your time in the garden. Here are her recommendations for both reducing gardening’s strains on your body and relieving pain if it does occur:
Before you go into the garden do this one minute sequence:
From Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
1. reach your arms out the sides, roll them so your palms face the ceiling, inhale and lengthen
from the center of your chest to the pads of your fingers.
2. Repeat but add lengthening from the space between your shoulder blades to your fingernails.
3. Lift your arms into Hastasana (arms overhead, palms facing one another), inhale and lengthen
from your feet to your fingers.
4. Hold a railing or the kitchen sink. Walk out so you come to a flat back. Then bend your knees,
continuing to maintain a flat back. Then walk in slightly and bend more so you lower your
buttocks move toward the floor and round the lower back. (Malasana). Repeat in reverse to come up.
Recommendations while gardening:
Sit in Upavista Konasana, Sukhasana or Vajrasana – kneel – on knee pads whenever possible.
Use a wheelbarrow.
Ask someone else to help with heavy lifting.
Avoid bending forward with straight legs – and especially avoid doing this while lifting.
When carrying liquid like compost tea, many small trips are better for your knees and back
After gardening regardless of whether or not you feel sore – attend to your tender areas.
Back – Lie in Savasana resting your calves on a chair seat ( The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health,
Patricia Walden and Lisa Sparrowe pg 186), or a bolster under your knees.
Shoulders – Supported bridge on a bolster or blanket pile. ( BKS Iyengar Yoga pg. 219)
Knees – Virasana on two bolsters (BKS Iyengar Yoga pg 188)
Hamstrings – urdva prasarita padasana ( The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, Patricia Walden and
Lisa Sparrowe pg 164 only closer to the wall depending on hamstring flexibility) against the wall or
viparita karanii (BKS Iyengar Yoga pg. 216-217)
Hips – Supta Baddha Konasana with a lot of support under your thighs and a sandbag in each inner
Sequence by Jo Schneiderman. Illustrations by Erin McNally.