Growing your own healthy vegetables, fruit and herbs, is everything good for you mind, body and soul. But sometimes a day in the garden can leave you stiff and sore. Try these six postures before you start to prepare you for the strength and flexibility you rely on when you’re digging, planting and other gardening work. This short yoga routine will also keep you in alignment through a long day outdoors.
This pose is a basis for the position of your body and spine when digging, hoeing or pushing a wheelbarrow.
CAT COW BREATHING
(Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
Cat cow breathing stretches and warms up the muscles that flex and extend the spine. Cat cow breathing also helps you find the difference between a rounded spine, a neutral spine and an extended spine, which will help your alignment in the rest of the sequence below.
To get into the posture: Come to hands and knees. Place your knees directly under your hips approximately two fist widths apart, and your hands under your shoulders. Line up the middles of your wrists with the outside edges of your shoulders. Start with the spine in its neutral curves, gently engaging the core to draw your belly up and in toward the spine. On an inhale, lift your face, chest and tail to cow pose, extending the spine. On an exhale, round your spine, drop your head toward the floor and lift your mid back up toward the sky. Repeat for 5-10 rounds, and end in a neutral spine.
- If your knees are tender, put a blanket or towel under them for support.
- If your wrists are tender, place a blanket or towel under the palms of your hands and let the fingers spill over the edge, which reduces the extension of the wrists.
Tadasana strengthens and lengthens the postural muscles that keep you in healthy and balanced alignment.
To get into the posture: Stand with your big toes together and the tendons of your second toes parallel to one another. Balance your weight on all four corners of your feet. Gently flex the quadriceps so the kneecaps lift toward the hips. Draw your lower belly in and up. Lift the ribs away from the hips toward the sky. Outwardly rotate your upper arm bones so you palms face away from your torso, then leave the shoulder and upper arms in that position, and turn just the forearms so the palms now face your torso. Lengthen the back of the neck so the crown of the head reaches toward the sky. Hold for 5-10 slow, deep breaths.
- Make sure you don’t lean back into your low back in an effort to lift your ribs higher. Keep the low back long and the core engaged.
- Make sure you don’t shrug your shoulders up by your ears. Keep them sliding down toward your hips.
Often when we work in the garden we round our backs to get closer to the ground, whether shoveling dirt or picking low-growing veggies and flowers. If you round your back all day while gardening, you will probably be rather sore, as the back muscles are being overused and the leg and core muscles are not sharing the work of supporting the spine. This pose strengthens legs, back and core, and also teaches a healthy, non-rounded alignment for bringing the body closer to the earth. Use this posture as a basis for the position of your body and spine, especially when digging, hoeing or pushing a wheelbarrow.
To get into the posture: From Tadasana, bend your knees and drop your hips toward the floor a little above knee height. Go toward approximately a 90 degree angle between your torso and thighs. Keep your weight back toward your heels instead of forward into your toes. Keep your spine in Tadasana alignment; do not allow the spine to round. On an inhale, reach your arms toward the sky shoulder width apart, and turn the palms to face one another. Allow the shoulder blades to spread away from one another and wrap around the sides of the ribs. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
- If your shoulders are tight or sore, open your arms wider to a V shape, or place your hands together in the center of your chest.
- To check if your weight is truly back in your heels, glance down toward your knees and see if can see your big toes.
BOUND ANGLE POSE
Since we spend so much time sitting in chairs, our hips and groin can get tight, making it difficult to squat and get close to the earth for garden work. This posture opens the hips and groin, and prepares us to safely squat in the next posture Garland Pose.
To get into the posture: Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together and let the knees drop apart toward the floor. Grab on to the front of your ankles, and on an inhale lengthen your spine, and on an exhale fold forward toward the floor, maintaining the length in the spine and minimizing the rounding. Stay for 10 breaths or 1-2 minutes.
- If your spine is rounded and your low back protrudes behind your hips, sit on a blanket or two to elevate the hips and lengthen the spine.
- If you are folded close to the floor, place your head on a yoga block or blanket for support.
Sometimes we need to get very close to the earth when gardening, while planting seeds, tending to sprouts or pulling small weeds. Garland pose is a great pose to get close to the earth and open the hips at the same time.
To get into the posture: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip bone width apart with your toes turned out 45 degrees. Bring your hands to heart center, then bend your knees to squat down between the heels. Bring the elbows inside the knees, and press the elbows out into the knees. Adust the angles of your feet so they match the angles of your thighs. Lengthen the spine toward the sky. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
If you are not able to get your hips all the way down toward the heels, you can place a block or stack of blocks under you for support. If this is still not enough support you can squat leaning back into a wall.
Kneeling in the garden is also a nice option to get close to the earth. This posture opens up the thighs, ankles, bottoms of the feet and toes to prepare for kneeling on the ground.
To get into the posture: Sit on your heels with your knees and feet together. Tuck your toes under and make sure the balls of your feet touch the floor rather than just the toes; use your hands to help the toes fully tuck if necessary. Lengthen the spine and stay for 5-10 breaths.
If you are not able to sit all the way down on your heels or if your knees feel strain, separate feet and knees and sit on a block or two between the feet. You can also place a blanket or bolster between the hips and heels and sit on that.
If you are not able to tuck the toes all the way under, you can practice the traditional posture with feet pointing behind you.
If you need a break on the intensity on the toes, stand up on the knees briefly and then sit back down on the heels.
Do you enjoy gardening? How do you deal with the strain on your joints and muscles? Share your ideas and experiences in Comments so we can all learn from each other.