Gardening is one thing I look forward to each spring—planting new flowers and shrubs and watching the greens and colors pop out of their slumber to celebrate the sun and warm weather. But there is always one downside to gardening: the pain in my back and the knees afterwards.
So, this year, when I was doing my first weeding and trimming to clear away the winter growth, it occurred to me that I know a really good way to prevent these pains. Yep, yoga.
Alignment from the Mat to Real Life
How many times do we really remember to recall those alignment practices we do on the yoga mat and bring them into real life situations? Well, this is clearly one of those times that can benefit from remembering all that we learn.
While I pulled out the old vincas and trimmed the grasses, I became more aware of how I was moving my body to reach down, around, and forward, and realized that that was rounding my back and completely not supporting my knees or core.
No wonder I needed to do a little yoga stretching afterwards. So, I thought, why not do some yoga while I’m doing my gardening? After rethinking my body movements, I realized there were several yoga poses that were truly helpful to my back, knees, and neck while I pulled the weeds—rather than my muscles.
Here are a few poses to try next time you’re out in the garden.
1. Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Take the feet wide, keeping the abdomen firm with uddiyana bandha. Extend the spine, keep the shoulder blades hugging together, hinge forward at the hips, and keep the knees soft to protect the knees and back.
This pose is great for creating stability when trimming or weeding for several minutes at a time, but a straight back here is key to protect against pain.
2. Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)
In this pose, keep the feet hip distance apart. And, just like Prasarita Padottanasana above, extend the spine, keep the shoulder blades hugging together, hinge forward at the hips, and keep the knees soft to protect the knees and back.
This pose is only recommended for short periods of time—no more than 30 seconds. If you wish to stay longer, take Prasarita Padottanasana.
3. Squat Pose (Malasana)
This is a great pose for releasing tension in the lower back, and also a great counter pose to both Prasarita Padottanasana and Ardha Uttanasana. However, if you have knee issues, it’s best to avoid this pose.
To do this while gardening, take the feet wide enough to keep your heels on the ground. Keeping the spine straight and the shoulder blades back will help avoid pain from misalignment—just like you learned in yoga class!
4. Hero Pose (Virasana)
Just like in Malasana, if you have any knee issues, this pose is best being avoided. Also, if you have sensitive knees, an old blanket or a folded yoga mat will give great support to the knees.
Note: If you need to lean forward in this pose to trim a few weeds, be sure to keep the back straight—again, uddiyana bandha is a great help here too.
5. Extended Side-Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
This is great for stretching the legs, back, and sides of the body and for extending the arm while staying low. The key here is to place the bottom arm on the inside of the leg to not only help the bent knee from collapsing inward, but to give more stability as you reach forward to pick that stubborn dandelion.
6. Half-Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
Need to reach a little further forward to pluck a weed, but prefer not to step on your bed of pachysandra? Practice your balance, get a nice stretch, and avoid flattening your flowers.
Start with the feet hip distance apart and fold forward to Uttanasana, then walk both hands slightly forward. Lift one leg parallel to the ground, and then reach with the arm on that same side to grab the weed. Try to open the top hip to the side for the full expression of the pose.
Then, walk the hands back, lower the top foot and roll up to standing.
Once you start to become more conscious of your yoga practice off the mat, the better you’ll be able to care for your body with proper posture and alignment in any situation. All you have to do is remember your practice.