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Gardening & Yoga

October 30, 2013

Every so often you hear how gardening is good for your health. Sure this is probably true if you do a bit of gentle gardening, perhaps for a couple of hours in your spare time and otherwise lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle. Gardening means you become more active and get outdoors, which can only be good for you, right?

But if you do a LOT of gardening, or if you do it as a job – gardening for a whole working day, day after day – it can have a pretty wearing effect on your body.

Tree & phlomis

Chronic aches and pains, sore joints, knotted, tense and worn muscles are NO FUN. Unfortunately these are some of the less welcome side effects that can come with gardening. And boy do I know it. Gardening as a job is not all about flowers and tea breaks. It involves digging, planting, heaving, hoiking, lifting, pulling, pushing, raking, sawing. Many times a task can be heavy, intense and repetitive for the duration of time that it takes to complete – which can range from minutes to days. And let’s face it, most gardeners do not warm up or down before or after a big day’s work-out in the garden. I’m not complaining. I love gardening and it does make you feel great. But it also makes you ache.

This is where yoga comes in for me. No, it’s not just for hippies. It just makes a lot of sense. [I know some gardener-types can really poo-poo the idea. A head gardener I worked for once suggested introducing yoga in the garden for the gardeners. It went down like a lead balloon. I thought it was rather enlightened.] It is the perfect counterbalance to the heavy, jarring and grinding actions that impact on your body in gardening. It makes you listen to you body, helps you build strength and keeps your body supple, gently stretching out your muscles and limbs. Plus, I find it makes you feel great. Both in body and mind.

My first real encounter with yoga was in 2007 (or was it 8, I forget) when I treated myself to a one day Pranayama breathing workshop at the beautiful Haybarn Spa at Daylesford in Gloucestershire. The instructor we had was a serious yogi who did extreme things such as nose cleaning and swallowing cloth to cleanse his food pipe and stomach (well, that’s what he told us). Luckily we didn’t have to do any of this but he did take us through a few beginners’ yoga postures – the first I ever did.

A year or so later I started going to yoga classes at my old gym (the Canary Riverside branch of Virgin Active (an awesome gym with an infinity pool overlooking the Thames and fab spa facilities for post-class/work-out *sigh*). The best sessions were the ones taken by Heather Mason, who didn’t just go through the motions of each asana (or yoga pose) but also addressed breathing, spiritual and mental aspects too – teaching us to be ‘mindful’. It gave me the foundation to see yoga as being incredibly therapeutic and beautiful.

I think in that way, yoga and gardening make great bedfellows. They both make you feel more connected, peaceful and positive. They are also both meditative, nurturing and about finding balance. Well, that and yoga does a good job of helping me to get rid of the tension built up in my neck and shoulders and keeps me bendy!

Shiva Rea

These days being a gym member isn’t very cost-effective or convenient for me so I do my yoga at home. I got this DVD – Shiva Rea Daily Energy – about three years ago and I’ve just rediscovered it in the last few months. I’m a bit picky about my yoga instructors. They are not all the same! And I haven’t had one as good as Heather since I left my old city gym. But this DVD is great and I would highly recommend it. It’s very flexible – you can pick and mix the elements you want to make up your practice. The Water and Shanti practices are nice and mellow and I find particularly good for releasing tension. Plus, as each individual practice is fairly short it makes it easy to fit some yoga in to your day.

You might find it a little tricky if you have zero yoga experience. There aren’t any detailed instructions for the poses so a bit of knowledge is useful. She does also have a beginners DVD but I haven’t watched it so can’t say if it’s any good.

Good luck if you decide to give yoga a go. I can’t recommend it enough and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If anything, it will hopefully help to keep our bodies in good shape and prolong our gardening lives a little longer!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Zoey permalink
    September 23, 2014 4:11 pm

    Hallo.
    I totally agree. Without my yoga classes I would be bent double. Being a gardener is hard work. Luckily I live in Sussex so can go to a £5 drop in class before my day starts. Even then I still think a 6 weekly massage is a necessity rather than a treat.

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