If you’re reading this, chances are you love gardening. From carefully planning and planting in the spring, to munching on herbs throughout the summer — and, let’s face it, many of us will admit to the sense of satisfaction that can only come from a good weeding — gardening brings joy to the lives of many. With all that we get to tending to a garden — fresh air, sense of place, a connection with nature — getting our hands dirty can be hard on the body. Many of us suffer from the soreness and stiffness associated with repetitive movements and simply leaning over flower beds or garden rows.
As we tend to the earth, we often forget to tend to ourselves.
Yoga is a great way to strengthen and stretch muscles, while bringing focus to the breath, body and the present moment. Gardening, too, is something of a “moving meditation” — gardening and yoga may just have more in common than you might think. Here are a few poses, to be done together in a short sequence, that can done be done before or after a gardening session to lessen the impact on joints and muscles while increasing awareness.
First, start your practice seated in a comfortable position on a mat or towel. You may practice indoors or outdoors in the garden, whatever suits you. Begin to pay attention to the breath — each inhale and each exhale. In yoga, we work to link the breath with movement, so we will maintain this awareness of breathe throughout the practice, however long or short, vigorous or slow-paced.
Child’s pose (Balasana)
From all fours, widen the knees slightly and sink the hips back into the heels. Reach the hands to the front of the mat, pressing into all five fingers as you sink the hips back even deeper. Stay here for a few breaths, feeling the breath puff up the back as you inhale, and lower down as you exhale. Child’s pose gently opens the hips, thighs, back body and shoulders.
Come to all fours on your mat, knees directly beneath the hips and hands directly beneath the elbows and shoulders. Inhale the chest through the arms, rolling the shoulders back, arching the back and looking up slightly. Exhale to to round the back, pushing the ground away, and tucking the bellybutton to spine as you exhale fully. Repeat for 10 (or so) cycles of breath. This pose is excellent for gardeners as it works to strengthen the back and spine. When we you find you are hunched over the garden bed, come back to this action and roll the shoulders back slightly to realign the spine and take pressure out of the back body.
Forward fold (Uttanasana)
Standing with feet hip-width apart and rooting all five toes into the mat, allow the arms, shoulders and upper body to relax, hanging without effort as the legs support the upper body. Inhale to a flat back, engaging the upper back and abdomen to look forward. Exhale to release back down. Repeat for three cycles of breath. Similar to the actions of the upper body found in cat/cow, this pose will help to strengthen your upper back, in addition to finding a stretch in the backs of the legs.
Bring the feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and begin to bend into the knees, bringing the seat back toward the ground. Feet can rotate outward slightly to point the corners of the mat as you bring your fingertips to the ground in front of you. Sinking further into the hips, awaken in the belly and roll the shoulders back, bringing the torso upright. If comfortable, bring hands to heart centre and hold for a few breathes. Squatting is certainly a familiar ‘pose’ for gardeners! This pose allows for an opening of the hips. When squatting down to pull a weed or harvest veggies, come back to the action of awakening in the belly and rolling the shoulders back — this too will lessen the strain on the upper back.
Corpse pose (savasana)
All of the hard work is done! Laying on our back, let the toes spill out to either side of the mat, flip the palms so they face up, and tuck the shoulder blades into broaden the chest. Release the body of all effort here. Be sure to allow ample time in Savasana — at least five minutes or more.
Words + Photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical