By Simi Rodgers
Adapted from 100 Best Yoga and Pilates by Parragon Inc.
Whether you are planning your garden for next season, already working in a garden, or even considering taking up gardening as a new hobby, you should set clear intentions of what you would like to accomplish. When most people think of yoga, the first thing that may come to mind is postures, or poses. While practicing these postures may help relieve the body of a hard-working gardener, one should be aware that yoga is much more than postures. Yoga is a way of life. There are eight limbs of yoga that act as guidelines for living a purposeful and meaningful life. Now you may be wondering how do the eight limbs of yoga relate to my garden? The answer is simple. Both the body and a garden are like sacred temples that should be treated with respect, care, and love! Here is how you can apply the philosophy of yoga to your garden to attain a bountiful harvest:
- Yama: the first limb of yoga, which relates to personal ethics and the sense of integrity that guide us in our daily lives. As an organic gardener, having integrity is crucial to the success of your garden. Organic farmers are held to a high standard of farming protocols, such as only using organic and non-GMO seeds and providing access to pasture for your livestock. Practicing the yamas means you only provide your customers the highest quality products and that you are honest about the practices you used to maintain your luscious garden.
The Five Yamas:
- Ahimsa: Non-violence. It is easy to see pests as something we should conquer, but try to remember that they are messengers of a bigger problem. Having a pest problem may be a sign that you are lacking a particular nutrient. Instead of adding harsh chemicals to your garden that may damage the integrity of your soil, consider taking a natural approach. Do a soil test, find out what nutrients you are lacking, and amend your soil with a natural source of the nutrient that your soil is lacking to address the real cause of the problem.
- Satya: Commitment to Truthfulness. Be honest with yourself and your fellow gardeners about how much time you have to commit to your garden. If you make a mistake, such as accidentally nicking an irrigation line, be truthful with yourself and your co-workers. Take the time to go back and fix your errors to prevent further issues down the line.
- Asteya: Non-stealing. If you are working in someone else’s garden, this particular yama is crucial. Make sure to ask permission before borrowing a tool or harvesting crops for your own dinner. Never make it a habit to take without asking. Respect for others helps build trust and a strong team.
- Brahmacharya: Sense control. This yama relates to abstaining from things that restrict you from reaching your goals. While in yoga this usually means channeling your sexual energy rather than acting on impulses, in the garden this may mean moderating the things that prevent you from doing the best job you can do. Whether it be limiting yourself to one cup of coffee a day or working towards dropping your cigarette habit, it is important to not let our vices slow us down. Just as you only want to put the utmost love and care into your garden, you should also do the same with your body. A happy gardener cultivates a happy garden!
- Aparigraha: Non-covetousness. It is very important to acknowledge how far you have come with your own personal gardening journey. Do not covet your neighbor’s gorgeous garden boxes. Accept the fact that it takes time to make something grow and revel in the process it takes to make a seed grow from start to finish. Do not compare your garden to the gardens of others; rather view them as inspiration for your own garden!
- Niyama: the second limb of yoga, which deals with personal observances. These are intimate attitudes that may be adopted for more soulful living. In organic gardening, every component, from soil to crops to livestock to the farmer, is part of a system. There are certain attitudes pertaining to organic farming that parallel the niyamas very nicely.
The Five Niyamas:
- Sauca: Purity. Having only the purest inputs is pertinent for achieving the desired organic output. This means only using seeds, livestock feed, and soil amendments that are marked with the USDA Organic seal of approval. If you receive a plant or animal from a friend, verify the source they got from before adding it to your already organic system. Only providing your garden with pure love and care will help you rest easier at night.
- Santosa: Contentment. Be happy with what you have. As my father always says, “From small acorns grow large trees.” Enjoy the process of watching everything grow rather than waiting in anticipation for harvest day. It is a beautiful thing when one has such a strong connection to nature that they become a self-titled caretaker of the earth! If you love what you do, your garden will not a be your place of work, rather a place to relax and forget about your worries.
- Tapas: Burning enthusiasm. In yoga, this refers to using your enthusiasm to channel your energy into bettering yourself. This may include paying attention to your eating habits, body posture, and breathing patterns. In the garden, this means prioritizing tasks and understanding what needs to be done right away, such as laying irrigation, and what can wait a little longer, such as weeding around the garlic patch. Doing something you are passionate about sometimes requires doing the nitty-gritty jobs first, so you can do the fun stuff later.
- Svadhyaya: Self study. To improve your postures in your daily practice, one must study the way each posture makes their body feel. Studying oneself creates understanding of one’s abilities and limitations. This is also true in the garden. Pay attention to how much time you are devoting to your garden and determine if you need to modify the amount of time you set aside. Walk your garden each day before you begin working in it to observe what is growing well and what needs some extra TLC. Also, study your own emotions and recognize when problems in your personal life may hamper your ability to do the best job you can do in the garden. It is okay to take a day off and recharge if that’s what your body is telling you to do. Don’t worry, the garden will still be there tomorrow!
- Isvara Pranidhana: Celebration of the Spiritual. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, hopefully we can all agree that some great energy force that cannot be seen, only felt, is allowing your garden to thrive! Appreciate the opportunity that you have been given to grow food that will sustain others. Surrender to the spirit of your garden and have faith that everything will grow in due time.
- Asanas: Body Postures. If you do not already practice yoga poses, you might consider starting to ease some aches and pains you may experience while gardening. There are a variety of postures that are geared towards relieving tension in different parts of the body. Whether you believe yourself to flexible or not, it is worth giving yoga a try. Trust me, your body will thank you later. In gardening especially, you may find yourself frequently bending in awkward positions or using hand tools that strain your muscles. It is important to recognize when you are in pain, take a moment to breath, and find a new position that is comfortable for your individual body. Stretching before a day in the garden makes a world of difference!
- Pranayama: Breath. Consciously being able to control your breathing is so important, not only in times of stress but also when you are working out in the sun. Focusing on your breath can help you get through some of the toughest poses with ease and concentration. Similarly, when you are working in the sun on hot day and stuck in the same position for a long time, remember to breathe deeply into your diaphragm and do not lock your knees. Locking your knees can cause you to become dizzy or faint. If you start to feel weak, focus on your breathing until you make it to your water bottle. As you face challenges, whether it be in your daily life or in the garden, just keep breathing. Always remember to breathe life into your garden, by simply taking the time to just be in your garden.
- Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the Senses. The fifth limb of yoga is all about turning your intentions inward. Rather than becoming distracted by the sound of construction down the road, focus on the task at hand. As you sucker your tomato plants, remember that you are doing it for plant health and giving the plant more room to grow. We must not simply do, but we must be aware of why we do what we do to cultivate a more meaningful garden.
- Dharana: Concentration. It is so easy to get distracted when you took a break from your garden for a few days and many duties piled up. In yoga, concentrating on a focal point that is not moving is crucial for holding those tough balance poses. In the garden, we must concentrate on one task at a time in an effort to not overwhelm ourselves. Rather than focusing on the things you cannot change, such as weather pattern and pesky deer, focus on the task at hand. In order to make a meaningful impact on your garden, you must concentrate on being present and doing things in an efficient, but thoughtful manner to avoid errors.
- Dhyana: Meditation. The seventh limb of yoga deals with focusing the mind on a single subject of your choosing. This may include inhaling peace and exhaling frustration. Most people who take on gardening by choice already consider the garden a meditative place. If that is not true for you yet, designate some time (either before, during, or after gardening) to meditate in your garden. This may involve sitting in a comfortable seated position, with your hands resting on your knees facing upwards, and closing your eyes. Taking some time out of your day to meditate will help you refocus your intentions and reconnect with the environment that surrounds you. We should always remember that gardening is an honor, for those who tend to the earth are the first to reap its bounties.
- Samadhi: Bliss State. The last limb of yoga requires the highest level of experience and is the ultimate goal. Connecting with your inner purity and sense of identity help you feel a sense of oneness, as you master your mind and put your thoughts to rest in a trance-like state. As in yoga, achieving bliss in the garden may take years of practice. It may be when you finally get your organic certification after years of transitioning to organic. Or, it may be when you have finally gotten rid of all the Japanese beetles that have plagued your fruit trees. Whatever your bliss may be, it will be personal and you will know it when you feel it!
Wow! That was a lot of information to take in and you should be proud if you made it this far. I hope you found this passage helpful and make an effort to apply the philosophy of yoga to your garden. Not only will it help your garden grow, but it will cultivate inner peace, which is essential for the gardener and the garden!