As we go out to tend the garden, we must remember to also tend to our most important tool — our body. While we love the process of gardening, the process may not always love us. Crouching, pulling and lifting give us aches and pains we would rather leave in the compost pile. But yoga poses, when employed with mindfulness, can help keep us supple and healthy in the garden.
For the low back: Low back pain is often the result of tight hamstrings and inner thighs. To increase flexibility, try Supta Padangusthasa (reclining big toe pose):
• Lie on your back with your legs straight, flexing both feet.
• Draw your right knee towards your chest, placing your hands or a strap on the ball of the foot.
• Straighten the leg toward the sky, being mindful to keep the stretch around 70 percent capacity.
• Hold for 1-3 minutes.
• Repeat on other side.
Variation: You can bend the left leg, placing the sole of the foot on the ground or use a doorframe for support.
For the hips: To prepare your hips for the work ahead, try postures like Utthan Pristhasana (lizard pose).
• Stand tall and step your right foot forward into a lunge position; the knee is stacked over your ankle.
• Bring both hands, or the forearms, to the inside of the right leg.
• Keep your left inner thigh lifting as the heel falls back.
• Reach your heart and chest forward, creating length in your upper back.
• Breathe into hips for 1-3 minutes, softening and releasing.
• Switch sides.
Variation: Place your back knee on the floor or your forearms on a block or book.
For the shoulders and chest: After all of that bending and crouching, don’t forget to open the chest and shoulders with a standing heart opener.
• Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
• Draw you tailbone down.
• Interlace fingers behind your back, with arms slightly bent.
• Bring palms together, then straighten your arms as far as you can, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
• Lift the chest away from your pelvis as your hands move down toward the ground.
• Breathe long, deep breaths into the chest.
• Hold for 1-3 minutes
— Jackie Dobrinska is a yoga teacher, wellness coach and gardener at The Lord’s Acre Medicinal Herb Garden. Find more information at her website, asimplevibrantlife.com.
Yoga in the park
Yogis looking for a little vitamin D (and do-gooding) will convene Saturday mornings for Yoga in the Park, hosted by Asheville Yoga Center. Throughout the summer, the yoga studio will host outdoor yoga classes in Pack Square Park to benefit local nonprofit organizations Homeward Bound and Helpmate. Sessions take place most Saturdays through Aug. 30, 10-11:30 a.m. (no session July 5). Participants need to bring their own mat, and donations are accepted.
“The outdoor setting enhances the sensory experience of practicing yoga asana,” says Izze Shurte, one of the instructors for the free event. “With wet grass, birds chirping and even cars driving by, the experience pulls you into the present via the senses.”
And while the prospect of practicing yoga outside is fun, the event series is very much cause-driven. “We are most excited about the charities we have partnered with this year, Homeward Bound and Helpmate,” says Shurte. “These are two great local charities helping people in our community in a very real way. We pass along 100 percent of the donations, which makes us smile.”
Homeward Bound is a local nonprofit agency that provides long-term housing and support for homeless individuals. Its mission is to work with others to end the cycle of homelessness. Learn more at homewardboundwnc.org. Helpmate serves victims of domestic violence and their children in the Buncombe County area. The nonprofit provides an emergency shelter, 24-hour hotline, counseling, a court advocacy program and preventive education. Visit helpmateonline.org for more information.
For more details on Yoga in the Park and a full list of teachers and dates, visit youryoga.com. — Lea McLellan