Spring Has Sprung A Leak
As I write this, hail and slush splat fitfully against my windows. True to form, April is bringing showers of various kinds to smash and puncture the unfolding foliage and flowers of May. Ah, Spring, when all that’s going to leap to life has more or less leapt. For the past few days, I’ve been heaving out the dead to make room for the new. Today, rain (and icy dribbles of snow) will keep me indoors.
I’m all the more willing to have a day off because I am embarrassingly stiff as a board. Usually I’d have put in many, many hours of bending, stooping, and hauling by now, but this year has been so relentlessly wet that it’s been hard to find a time window big enough for excessive behavior. To be sure, I’ve weeded and worked the soil for an hour many times, only to be driven back inside by less than attractive conditions.
Yoga For Gardeners
So far, I haven’t been a bit sore, thanks to my wonderful yoga class. I am blessed with a kind and compassionate teacher who offers a wide range of choices at every point in her class. Her yoga style is lovely and as intensive or tenderly slow as you care to make it, thoughtfully accommodating the energetic and youthful as well as the lame and the halt (or the tired and the wounded).
It had never previously occurred to me that yoga was a terrific fit for gardeners, but so it is. As I bend and stoop and crouch and roll about on the soggy ground, leaning over backwards or turning upside down to fit a saw or pruner into a tight shrub’s base, I am daily grateful for all those stretching and balancing exercises.
A Long Spine For Pruning Bliss
Perhaps the most important idea is that of the straight and elongated spine. Sitting (which most of us do far too much of) compacts the spine and gives the lower back gip. Standing around isn’t much better until we discover the Pelvic Tilt, a little forward tuck of the tailbone that involves the abs and core muscles. Wow! Now one’s weight shifts downward to the lower belly and the whole body becomes more stable.
Pruning becomes much easier when one is able to stand securely on one foot with the saw-bearing outstretched arm counterbalanced by an uplifted back leg rather than a flailing foot. Similarly, planting is a breeze once one has mastered (mistressed?) the art of the Third World Squat, a fairly straight-backed position that allows amazing freedom of arm and hand movement. For how-to’s, consult a National Geographic for a folks-around-the-fire picture.
Try These Simple Garden Warm Ups
If soreness has plagued you in the past, here are some excellent ways to avoid it in the future. However, my just-revealed example should prove that knowing is not enough; one must also DO to get the benefits.
First of all, to keep heavy gardening chores pleasant and invigorating, do just a bit at a time. In addition, always start any gardening, heavy or light, by warming up your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. The whole business takes about ten minutes so there is really no excuse for not doing them….
Dive In Head First
Begin with 10 neck rotations, avoiding the backward position: Drop your right ear toward the right shoulder, letting the shoulder slope away earthward. Roll your chin to your chest, then repeat to the left. Return your chin to your chest between each side, but don’t roll your head backward, which can strain the neck muscles.
Now circle both shoulders 10 times, forwards and backwards. Raise your arms and rotate them at shoulder height 10 times in each directions. Next, with your arms at your sides, lightly clench your hands and circle your wrists 10 times forwards and backwards, then squeeze and release your hands 10 times. Shake out your hands lightly; they should tingle just a bit.
To loosen the waist, do 10 hip circles forwards and backwards (pretend you are using a hula hoop). Shake out each leg for a few seconds and jump almost-but-not-quite off the ground on both feet together 10 times. Now end up by shaking out your hands and arms again for 5 seconds. After all that, you should feel brisk and warm, with all joints loosened up and ready for action.
If you feel sore after working, do some pelvic tilts and gently rock the spine forward and backward. Now lie down and press the small of your back to the floor or your bed or what have you, holding for the count of five before releasing. Do that gently a few times and then take five minutes to reverse the blood flow to your legs; relax against a wall with your feet up, heels pointing toward the ceiling, and your legs supported by the wall. Onward!