Mindful Gardening

For many people, gardening in itself is a lesson in mindfulness. The methodical pulling of weeds or planting of seeds or bulbs can be meditative. Whether or not the meditative aspect is part of your gardening practice, the act of gardening is definitely physical activity, and it is one in which we need to be particularly mindful of our posture. (Bleeding Heart flowers pictured above are from my front flower bed.)

I recently spent a few hours attacking the weeds in my flower beds as well as planting seeds and seedlings in raised garden beds, and during that time I found myself in a some surprising yoga poses. Once I realized that I was “doing yoga” while pulling weeds, I tried to be much more aware of my body’s movements, and I worked to incorporate more poses and stretches throughout the rest of my time in the garden.

Below is the list of yoga poses I did while gardening and how you can incorporate this poses into your own gardening practice. As a general tip, it’s always best to stretch before activity like this. If you do have time to practice yoga before going to work in the yard/garden, you will feel even more limber and even more strong as you get into the work. Most importantly, do not stand bending at the waist the whole time you are working in the garden. Try to squat or kneel instead. (Tip: You can find a cushioned knee pad at most discount stores, or try using some folded up cardboard from your recycling bin.)

  • Table
  • Cat
  • Cow
  • Plank/One-armed Plank
  • Easy Seated Pose
  • Deer
  • Half Butterfly/half wide-leg seat
  • Wide-legged Seat
  • Forward Fold
  • Strong standing poses

By bringing my yoga practice to meet my gardening practice, I increased my body awareness during another physical activity and was able to better monitor my posture to make sure I wasn’t doing something that would cause pain later. For example, when I found myself in Table Pose (Hands and Knees), I made sure to level out my back, making sure it was supported by my core. If I found myself reaching and arching my back, then I made sure to round all the way through a proper Cat Pose, so I wasn’t putting too much strain on just my upper back or lower back as I reached, and I made sure to counter with some Cow Poses.

As you can see from the above photo, that low-hanging pine tree doesn’t leave a lot of space below. Stretching out under that tree, I found myself in a One-Armed Plank Pose as I supported myself with my left hand and grasped the weeds at the base of the tree with my right. While in Plank, I made sure to keep my trunk level (and not stick my bum too high in the air like so often occurs in this pose), and I tried to alternate which arm was supporting me and which was reaching for weeds. To reach under my tree, I had to be in a High Plank Pose, but you can absolutely modify according to your available space and explore Knee Plank.

Because my front flower bed sits at different levels, on one side I can stand and slightly lean to pull weeds because they are waist high, whereas on the other side, the flower bed is ground-level. On that side, I sat down in several seated poses while pulling the weeds closest to the edge of the flower bed. Easy Seated Pose (or Cross-Legged Pose) is a fine option here. (Tip: You can bring your knee pad under Sit Bones here if you usually use a prop for this pose.) It might also feel nice to stretch one leg out at a time in Half-Butterfly while here. You can also try Deer Pose for a different kind of leg stretch. And if the groin is feeling stretched from squatting low or from the Half-Butterflies, you can always go for a Wide-Legged-Seat. Maybe challenge yourself and reach forward to grab a few weeds in this pose. When seated, always sit straight up–straight spine, strong core, and try to keep the integrity of your spine as your bend forward, rounding your back only at the end.

raised garden beds

Left: Our homemade raised garden beds after first planting this season. (Beds made from upcycled pallets.)

If you have raised flower beds to work on, or if you are just working in an area that’s on a higher level, then you may be able to find some nice standing poses while gardening as well. I realized while bending and reaching over my raised garden beds that I could extend and find Triangle Pose while on my way in or out of a long reach. Pyramid Pose is somewhat similar and also accessible in this situation. You can even use the sides of your raised bed as support in place of a block! Maybe consider getting into some lunging poses as you stand and reach, instead of just defaulting to a forward fold. If you are reaching for something waist-level, like the side of my flowerbed pictured above, you might be able to find Crescent Lunge or Warrior I/II legs as you approach. Maybe you can even extend towards Side Angle on your way down to grab a weed.

Every body is different, just like each of our garden spaces are different, so try to see what would work for you within your specific garden space. Whether or not you incorporate many different asanas (a.k.a. poses) into your gardening practice, I invite you to bring in mindfulness and pay extra attention to your body positioning, be attentive to any aches that arise, and explore stretches that will counter act and comfort those aches.

Happy gardening!

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