YOGA AND GARDENINGLaura Lychnos
The gardening year is well under way. I have been busy on the allotment recently. As I spend time battling with the weeds and coaxing the seedlings to grow a little more… I have been reminded of how yoga and gardening compliment each other. I often think of how the 8 limbs of yoga relate to gardening. How a simple short yoga practice can soothe the body after a day in the Garden Gardening can help you to take your yoga practice “off the mat” and your yoga practice can help to build strength and flexibility to tackle the garden with more ease and release any of the aches and tiredness you feel after a day gardening.
Gardening requires a strong and flexible body (and mind at times!). It can be particularly hard work for the hips and the lower back when digging and lifting. Shoulders and upper back feel it especially if moving heavy wheelbarrows about, and wrists and knees often take offence to prolonged periods of weeding.
A regular and balance yoga practice helps to keep the body strong and flexible to be able to tackle those gardening jobs. A gentle restorative practice can help soothe the body after a day on the allotment or in the garden. I have suggested a short practice for the end of the gardening day at the end of this article.
Taking my yoga practice “off the mat” and remembering the 8 limbs of yoga I was reminded how the 8 limbs of yoga relate so well to gardening.
1 YAMAS – (The practice of non violence, non covetousness and non stealing). Practicing non violence by gardening organically and relocating the slugs and snails. Non covetousness by avoiding the “plot envy “that one can easily get caught up with. Obviously non stealing goes without saying but taking it one step further by giving away those spare seedlings or cuttings.
2 – NIYAMAS – (The practice of cleanliness). “A tidy shed is a tidy mind” and clean tools always seem to work better. Practicing contentment, taking time to stop and enjoy the garden/ allotment and all that you have achieved.
3 – ASANA – (Postures) A good balanced practice to keep the body strong and flexible and to ease the body after a day of digging.
4 – PRANYAMA – using a ujjayi breath whilst weeding, or taking 5 minutes to practice a favourite pranayama before tackling that daunting patch of bind weed or mares tail.
5 – PRATYAHARA – (withdrawal of the senses). Practicing mindfulness becoming totally focused on the task in hand and withdrawing from the outside world as you carefully follow that never ending bind weed root ….
6 – DHARANA – (Concentration) The practice of pratyhara prepares us for Dharana, as you find another piece of bindweed and with full concentration carefully aim to remove every last piece of that long white root ( I sense a theme developing with bindweed !)
7 – DHYANA – (Mediation). Where better to practice a walking mediation than in a garden. I have even been known to hide in the greenhouse and meditate when it rains.
8 – SAMADHI – (A state of ecstasy). The ultimate goal of both gardening and yoga. Sitting on the allotment in the warm sunshine feeling calm and light with a bunch of flowers from the cut flower bed ( I know, this is my indulgence on the allotment) and enough fresh veggies to prepare a nourishing meal at home, with maybe a few to sneak a snack on the way there.
Returning back to the mat after an enjoyable and mindful day gardening a short and simple sequence helps to release the body. You could even roll your mat out in the garden to enjoy the view of all your hard work, admitedly this may be a little easier in the garden than on an allotment.
The above sequence (click to enlarge) is intended for people already familiar with the suggested asana and is not intended to replace supervision from a reputable yoga teacher.
Laura is a registered yoga teacher, teaching classes, one to one sessions and workshops in and around the Godalming area.
Laura Lychnos, Registered Yoga Teacher