July and August on the Mendocino coast boasts beautiful gardens and garden tours that show them off. The glorious finished product (which is never truly finished) hides the true grit behind gardening that comes in the form of achy muscles, buckets of perspiration and scratched limbs. If you like outdoor exercise, the Yoga of Gardening is for you. Like basic Hatha Yoga it features warm up salutations, rigorous movement poses and balancing poses before the final resting pose.
Sun salutations begin with the application of sunscreen and a hat, before you bow down to what the sun ushers up: weeds. To perform the Get-Down-and-Weed pose, lower to your hands and knees and keep your back as straight as possible by squatting or half-squatting with attention to possible neck strain. Getting down in the dirt for closer examination is an opportunity for awe as you notice all the cool insects or plants you forgot you had. This also gives you a chance to harvest some of those edible ‘weeds’ like chickweed, dandelion and borage.
Now you’re warmed up for the Feed-and-Mulch active series of maneuvers, which require awareness of lower back and shoulders as you shovel, lift, throw and spread. Be sure to adjust the position of your legs relative to your arms to avoid torqueing your spine. This produces a cleansing sweat and a chance to bestow heart-felt reverence to individual flowers. Feeding and mulching provide the opportunity to chant mantras of encouragement for each of your plants.
Watering-Your-Plants standing pose comes as a relief towards the end of practice. Keep your knees soft as you use your lower belly to power your arms and move the hose from plant to plant. This pose opens your mind to the bigger picture of what’s going on in the community of your garden. Bird life is typically a part of this yoga position and may join you for refreshment. Viewing your garden from this angle can lead to challenging balancing poses like the Pruning-Limbs-Pose. This is an advanced pose that requires you steady your weight on one leg and gracefully arabesque the other. Reach out with your upper body as you hold steady the shears to snip a wayward branch. Do not perform this on a ladder! Now you’re ready for the final integrative horizontal Corpse pose – a nap!