Book Notes: A Gardener’s Yoga

pink primrose

Well, dearies, I don’t know about you, but I am throwing myself fulltilt into spring gardening. And gardening in spring means Hard Work. You know it does. I’m fully into my fourth or fifth day of really getting down and dirty (literally). This is the part where we are stretching and bending and pulling and digging and really taking what I call The Winter Body and giving it a run for its money. You know the feeling, right? I can prune this bush. I can dig this big hole. I can reach that branch. I can lift the (cute) new doghouse (with a porch!!) and put it in the backyard all by myself. And then I soak in lovely lavender bathsalts and stretch and sleep and get up and do it all over again the next day. And so many times while I’m in the throes of challenging and pushing myself in the garden at this early time of the year I have had a kind of half-baked thought that if I would simply incorporate my background in yoga into my gardening work, I might have a pretty darn good practice, and, hey, I’d call that master multi-tasking! And then, behold, a smart cookie named Veronica D’Orazio wrote a book called Gardener’s Yoga: Bend & Stretch, Dig and Grow! Praise be! It’s published by the nice folks at Sasquatch Books up in Seattle.
cover Gardener's Yoga

Pretty cute cover, I’d say, thanks to a talented illustrator named Tim Foss.

So from the get-go I could tell Veronica suffered from this same compulsion that I, and I am willing to bet you, also fall into. States she on the first page: “When I used to weed the garden I would enter some kind of bizarre green vortex where time seemed to stop. I experienced a strange, almost physical compulsion to clear and continue.” I know we all know exactly what you are talking about, Veronica. She goes on to describe the attending side effects of Living in the Green Vortex, my friends. “I would weed unceasingly. I forgot to eat. I forgot to socialize. Mostly, I forgot my body.”

Uh-oh. It gets worse.

“I would squat for three hours straight under the squash blossoms and then try to stand up. Stooped over and sore, I would hobble over to the hose…”

Uh, we get the picture, my dear. We have all been there (and still are, I bet!).

Anyway, she finally did learn to pay attention to her aching and loyal human vehicle, after what she describes as “the clincher.” [Why oh why must we always wait for the proverbial swinging door to hit us on our lovely patooshes??] Continuing in this frenzied pattern Veronica finds herself one blissful evening unable to stand up. “My back went out somewhere in the scented geraniums…” she laments. Now her body had her attention. Fortunately the solution lay closer to her than she might have imagined. Already a practioner of yoga Veronica begins to imagine how yoga might actually support a gardener in preventing injuries or the accompanying aches and pains that we all at times feel in manifesting our ambitious gardening endeavors. She notices the inherent links even in the names of some of the various poses: the tree pose; blooming lotus; mountain. These Sanskrit names which are over two thousand years old reflect a culture which had not isolated the body from the soul or the garden from the spirit. Ms. D’Orazio is a gifted, spiritually attuned writer and she deftly weaves the lines between the source of yoga and the source of gardening, all, in essence, one in the same.

What follows in Gardener’s Yoga are 21 poses, all beautifully illustrated by Mr. Foss, and eloquently explained by the author. Might I suggest this book as an invaluable companion to your gardening activities this year? If so, remember that as you approach each pose that what you are aspiring to is to reach only as far as you are comfortable. Here is the Easy Seat pose, a good beginning place:

Easy Seat Pose

While it’s true there is a correct form for each pose, one does not begin at that state any more than a baby comes out walking. You could use this book as a guide. Moving into poses is instant feedback about what you were probably heretofore unaware of in your body. Or you kind of knew but were hoping it would go away. Fortunately one of the many gifts of yoga is that most likely those stiff places will eventually melt simply in the sheer act of feeling them, and stretching and breathing into them. Remember yoga was originally designed to assist people who meditate to sit for long periods without getting uncomfortable. It makes sense it would assist us in our gardens as a practice. Here’s the basic seated spine twist. Your organs love this one:
Seated Spine Twist

When I lived in North Carolina I had a long wooden back porch that faced a virtual forest of a back yard and there I would privately do my practice. In Arizona I managed to find a quiet corner in the front yard, always using a thick yoga mat. I have yet to find the perfect outdoor corner here, but I will join you in that quest. It’s the perfect time. Keep me posted on your progress, will you?

Love and blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

20 Responses to “Book Notes: A Gardener’s Yoga”

  1. Sounds like a wonderful idea and a very beneficial book to me. I’m going to check this one out. I myself have suffered from back problems my whole adult life (and I’m 51). I get out there, as I did just this morning, stooping and weeding for long periods without standing. And when I do, oh boy. I don’t know why we do these things to this, our only body and vessel of life. We do need to be better drivers of our vehicle! Thanks for the tips.
    Brenda

  2. What a wonderful post about a wonderful book !
    I try to keep on track with my nightly yoga routine, to help my screaming muscles .. but incorporating it with a garden theme .. the best of both worlds !
    Thanks so much for posting this .. I am going to look for this book !
    Joy

  3. What a wonderful post! I’m going to look for that book, and try and incorporate the yoga into the gardening too! I always try and lift tree trunks, gasping “I must be insane!” and then have to take 3 aspirin to even be able to move.

  4. Hi, Brenda! See? We all do it. There is just something about getting caught up in the gardening process that is so compelling that we just charge ahead. It’s going to be a real discipline to start incorporating some breaks that entail s t r e t c h-
    i n g! Join me! Kathryn

  5. Hi, Joy, thank you for stopping by. Good for you for already having a nightly practice. Maybe you could experiment and move the practice to pre-gardening instead of post? That’s what I need to aim for. I always just charge out there raring to go! Kathryn

  6. Hello Blue Fox, I don’t even bother to tell myself I’m insane. I just keep saying, “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.” So you are one step ahead of me! The book is available on Amazon, if that’s one of the things you do. Kathryn

  7. Oh dear Kathryn … you are a wise woman, connected with the universe. An ‘old soul’ perhaps? I do believe all gardeners see themselves in this post. We are all works of nature, liking to ‘bend like a reed in the wind ‘ ~ mind over matter? ~ yet crawl out of the garden, content & sore, after a prolivic day. I am a ‘stretcher’ though not enough … pilates … hard work hoping no one is peeking in the window, watching me gut out ‘working on my core’. I do believe yoga is the answer. Even though I see no bursting buds or green in the garden (2-10 inches of snow predicted tonight) will join you in your quest … to the best of my ability.

  8. It sounds like a book that I can really use. I can feel the aches and pains vididly from your description and my floor exercise and walking just don’t do it. All this time I thought it was me not knowing when to quit! Mary

  9. Joey, working on your core sounds good to me. Yoga is a good balance for any other kind of exercise in my experience. It covers so much territory in such a gentle fashion. Full moon on snow sounds extraordinarily beautiful. Enjoy. Kathryn xoxo

  10. Hi, Mary, I can only say from my own experience that each time I wonder if maybe I’ve turned a corner as soon as I get out in the garden and add yoga and some weights I feel very quickly that I have solidly gained ground. I have never found any other practice besides yoga that lets me know almost instantly just where the pains are hiding. And then I’m always astounded that they hid so well right in plain sight. So it’s kind of a tough row to hoe in the beginning, but rapidly one makes progress. A GREAT beginner dvd is AM and PM Yoga w/ (gorgeous) Rodney Yee on cover. If you just did that every day, for 15 minutes you would very rapidly notice a difference. Good luck! Kathryn xoxoo

  11. Thanks for the turn-on to this wonderful book…. if I had known about it, I would have gotten it for YOU!!! But since you have it, I know at least one other yogi gardener who will love it!!

    Mahalo for the tip, and glad to see you educating the masses AND taking good care of yourself.

    Aloha mai,
    Pamela

  12. Hi, Pamela, Thank you! Yes, this book is a real inspiration. It’s wonderfully divided into seven exercises to do before gardening, seven to do during a break, and seven to do after, all very logically chosen. You would like it, too. It’s a good pocket companion! Love, Kathryn

  13. Fantastic!!! Great find! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Hi, Antonia! It truly is a great find. I’m inspired. I went out into the garden this morning and have already decided where I’m going to have a small deck built so I can do resume an outdoor practice. Mom xox

  15. Oh, wow, Kathryn. I do yoga, but I’ve been off my practice while dealing with my mom’s stuff the last couple of weeks. I am in love with that book and the photos. I’m ordering a copy. Thank you so much for making me aware.~~Dee

  16. Hi, Dee, I fully understand. It’s part of a woman’s wiring. We take care of everyone else, every cat else, every dog else, every plant else. And then there we are. Oh, yeah. Me. Beautiful me. :) The book truly is an inspiration as it’s so user friendly. I really am going to put in that little yoga deck. I can hardly wait! Kathryn xoxo

  17. Hello Kathryn

    Thank you for your comment on

    ESTHER IN THE GARDEN

    I’m so glad you enjoy it!

    The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers runs several ‘Green Gyms’. They give you warm up exercises, show you how to use your body, get you to clear scrubland or do coppicing etc. (!) then have a session of ‘cooling down’ exercises at the end. They are growing popular – more interesting than proper ‘gyms’, more useful – and more sociable too!

    HAPPY EASTER!

    Esther Montgomery

  18. Hi, Esther! The UK is sounding more enlightened by the minute. I saw reference to “allotments” at least three times yesterday in my cybersearching! And I know this is a popular concept in Russia–replete with little cabins, I believe. All this land here and so few community gardens…We have Conservation Corps here, but I seriously doubt they are practicing Green Gym therapies! We are cowboys here, Esther. You probably know. Kathryn

  19. I can completely identify…we had our one and only sunny day on Saturday…the only one in about 14…so I was out from dawn to dusk…ouch…I think it was the 3 cu ft of compost that I moved that put me over the edge…

  20. Oh, my dear! Jean Ann, we’ve all done it. Multiple times, actually! Oh, gosh, I feel compelled to share that if you really have gone too far I would recommend arnica gel. This is giving me a great inspiration for next post! THANKS! Kathryn

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