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Yoga for Gardeners

Thursday, May 19, 2010

June Anderson,  (from Minden)  is an avid gardener,  painter (and teacher of painting)  and a dedicated yogi.   June is so passionate about painting flowers that  she spends hours in her garden so that she has beautiful plants  to paint.   I love seeing June every Wednesday because she is always so positive and has so much energy to  inspire  all of us.  Last week she mentioned to everyone in the class  that she had moved 29 bags  of manure into her garden.   We had a conversation about how challenging gardening is for the body.  Gardeners are required to squat, bend over,  move  loads of soil,  dig weeds,  move plants, water etc.    Gardeners have to be strong and flexible!

Often that much forward bending, lifting  and squatting can result  in sore backs,  achy joints and tight muscles.  There are some  simple yoga stretches that can be done before gardening, part way through or  at the end to help relieve the stress that the body is put through.   Any postures or stretches that move  the spine in all of it's directions will help reduce injury in whatever you are doing - gardening or other adventures.  And remember, yoga can be done 2 minutes at a time - it is the pausing,  paying attention and then moving in a respectful way that is going to give you lasting power as you dig in the earth.

Because gardeners  bend forward  so much it is helpful to stretch your body in other directions.  Simple back bends like the cat and dog done on the knees,  or the yoga "sphinx pose" done the stomach are excellent for extending the spine.  Lying  on your  back and hugging your knees into your chest and slowly  rocking from side to side will gently stretch your lower back and hips.  Sitting in the bound angle (knees out to side, feet touching) will stretch the inner thighs.  Other moves like the side bending mountain, a forward bend or simple twists will also help the spine move in all of it's  directions.  The happy baby pose releases the lower back and counteracts the constant squatting you do when you garden.   The perennially favourite yoga pose "Legs-up-the-Wall"   releases the lumbar spine, providing space between the lumbar and the sacrum.

If  you are gardener who hasn't done yoga before and would like to get started there are some great resources in book stores, in the library (Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffman) and online  ( that will teach the basic yoga postures listed above.  The gift of a yoga practice is that  it  teaches you to listen to your body and its messages regarding your health and well being.    When doing your stretches if you find pain you need to stop because you have  discovered your  body's limitations at this particular time. Gently, over time and with practice, you will gradually enjoy and observe the process of expanding the limitations through the practice of yoga. Yoga is a quiet practice that has no competition involved and so everyone can work at their own range of possibility.  As with all forms of exercise it is important to check with your doctor to ensure it is a suitable activity for you.

Happy gardening everyone!

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