what yoga is teaching me about pulling weeds

Every summer, it would be the same thing- I would spend an evening plling the weeds out of the garden, then limp into the house, stretch out on the living room floor, and moan about tweaking my back. There would be a sore spot, always on the right hand side, and I would feel it for a few days, then go right back to pulling weeds, re-injuring myself over and over.
This summer, I have been doing yoga, taking a class about twice a week, and doing a little practice on my own on the in-between days. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. “Halfway lift and lengthen” there’s a move we do, hanging like a rag doll, bent at the waist, where we lift up halfway, to get a flat back, and lengthen the spine conciously. This has helped so much while I’m out getting at the bindweed under the burr oak. I’ll stretch and pull, then conciously, “halfway lift and lengthen.” It strengthens my back, takes the curve out of my spine and prevents the tweaks.
2. Sweat is good for you- I’ve been doing Vinyasa yoga, where the studio is heated to at least 80 degrees. Easy in the summer- it’s been cooler inside the yoga studio than out, but I come out of class wringing with sweat, and it feels so good. Gross, but good. Same with weeding. Pulling up the thistles before they go to seed, lugging buckets to the compost pile- it isn’t exhausting. It shows me how strong I am and how much stronger I’m getting.
3. Gardening is a practice. There won’t be a time when I’ll “know yoga” and be finished. It is something I can continue to do and get better at my whole life, if I’m lucky. “Landscaping” is something that can be installed and finished, but a garden is a process- I pull up the weeds between the flagstones knowing they’ll come back. Mother nature bats last- there will always be more seeds coming along, and the roots of the perennial mallow stretch way down. I can look at it as a never ending battle, or I can look at it as a practice, something I’ll be able to do the rest of my life, if I’m lucky. The plants are collecting sunlight, protecting the soil from erosion, and once I pull them, providing me with material for compost. So, breathe, stretch, pull, halfway lift and lengthen, and get that bindweed before it goes to seed.


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