I think I may have come to gardening through yoga. Yoga taught me to slow down, be in the moment, appreciate nature, allow myself to focus on my sensory and bodily experiences, let myself feel, and to just breathe. A natural extension of this was to want to spend more time outdoors, creating a peaceful space for myself.
As you explore yoga, you realise that it is so much more than postures (or ‘asanas’). Yoga is a way of being in the world: a way of breathing, standing, sitting, moving, seeing, hearing, feeling. It is not about tying yourself into a pretzel shape. I have been to yoga classes where it seems like it’s a competition for flexibility, but these are not the classes I have continued to attend. The classes I love are those in which the teacher allows the students to find their own way of practising, modifying postures for their own bodies, listening to what they need in order to expand, feel gracious, feel strong, feel open, feel inspired.
Because there is a natural continuity between yoga and gardening, I thought I would have a little fun post with my favourite yoga postures in the garden. My blogging friend, Shelly Johnson from Love is Stronger has taught me a lot in the last year about playful movement, and this post is dedicated to her.
Please note that I am not offering instruction here. I am not a yoga teacher! I am just showing you how I have fun combining yoga with gardening. I would love this to inspire you to find your own way of moving, whether it is yoga, dance, gardening, or another form of exercise which brings you joy.
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1)
I will start with gratitude for what is wonderful in the garden right now. I am saluting the English rose, ‘Royal Jubilee’ (you can see more of this rose in this post here). It is just gearing up for its magnificent flowering. It does what comes naturally to it.
This posture involves a slight backbend, and a cue which helps me to achieve this is to ‘let your heart flower’. Here I am, flowering.
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
Here I am setting my intention in Warrior pose, trowel and fork at the ready. The warrior postures involve a play between being firmly rooted and opening out. I have recently learnt that bones grow in a spiral pattern, just like plant stems do. I like this continuity.
Malasana (wide squat)
Being able to squat comfortably is a huge advantage for a gardener. I was once told that there are no hip replacements in countries where people regularly squat. I thought I’d mix it up a bit and extend one leg. Squatting is my preferred position for weeding and planting out.
Seeing things from different angles is important when planning a garden. It also allows us to see all the myriad little creatures: the beetles, bugs and butterflies that share the garden with us. Trikonasana is a wonderful twisting posture for seeing things from a different angle.
Prasarita padottanasana (wide-angle forward bend)
This is easier to do than it is to say! It is a useful posture for looking for dropped secateurs. I regularly fling my secateurs down in the garden, and then can’t find them. This is one way to look beneath the undergrowth.
One of my favourite jobs in the garden is to tie in climbers. Climbers like clematis, sweet peas and morning glory wind their tendrils around plant supports to give them stability. Here I am joining them in eagle pose, imagining that my arms and legs are tendrils.
Yoga gives me a sense of grace and fluidity. I have never been sporty, or particularly elegant, but when I practise yoga I feel both athletic and graceful. This spills out into everyday life. My posture and balance are far better than they would be if I had never discovered yoga. This can be useful when stepping carefully between plants in the border. It can also be utilised when sniffing roses.
I get a sense of being grounded and held by strong roots, and growing into expansive branches when I am practising tree pose. I am practising this pose under my favourite tree in the garden, the lime tree. This posture gives me a sense of peace. I am breathing in the whole of the earth’s creation, and breathing out my love for it.
There is always something new to learn in yoga, just like gardening. I have been practising for twenty years, but I am still discovering new variations or new transitions between postures. Rather than aiming to look like the yogis on the cover of Yoga Journal, I have learnt to work with my body, my individual skeleton, and to listen to my joints and muscles and nervous system. This too reminds me of gardening: it is never complete: the journey is more important than the destination. You learn to garden in a way that suits you, and brings you joy, tuning into where you are at right now.
I recently found a fabulous yoga app, which opens up a whole world of online classes. It is called Yoga Anytime and is a treasure trove of practices, be they asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), meditation, anatomy classes, or talks about yoga philosophy. If you are new to yoga, you should take ‘Level 1’ classes. There is Senior Yoga, Chair Yoga, Yoga Flows for however long you have that day…
Or search a real yoga class near you. I recommend finding a teacher you are comfortable with, and finding a style of yoga that appeals to you. You can search for a teacher (if you are in the UK) on The British Wheel of Yoga site.
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