For the last 10 years, I’ve moved from cramped apartment to apartment. After several failed attempts at “indoor gardening,” I threw in the towel and decided to wait until I had a place of my own—with, dare I say, my own yard to try my hand at it again. One of the first things I did when my husband and I moved into our first home last year, was call up my dad and ask him if I could have some flower bulbs to start my own little garden. I am far from an expert when it comes to gardening. I’ve already had to dig up several plants because I didn’t know how often they needed to be watered or some other mysterious reason I can’t quite put my finger on. But I’ve found that there’s something very therapeutic and wonderful about being outside and playing in the dirt. It’s not unlike the experience I have on my yoga mat.
Here are five similarities I’ve found between gardening and yoga:
1. Practicing mindfulness. It takes a keen awareness to notice the subtle signs of growth (or lack of growth) in plants. Noticing when a plant is too dry or not getting the right amount of sunlight is a challenge I’m still honing. Not to mention the feeling of being in the present moment when you notice the sun on your skin and the earth under your knees. It’s not unlike the awareness you build as you notice subtleties in the poses and in your body’s response to them.
2. Finding connection. For me, it’s incredibly gratifying to watch plants grow and bloom, and knowing I had something to do with helping that to happen makes it even more amazing. In yoga, we’re taught that there is a sacred connection to the universe and all life around us. In nourishing something and helping it to grow, I feel even more connected.
3. Pulling weeds. In order for a plant that you’re trying to nurture to grow, you’ve got to make sure the surrounding area is free of weeds or other plants that might take nutrients from the soil. In order to thrive in my yoga practice, I’ve had to learn to banish distractions and expectations (and sometimes even when I think I’ve pulled them up by their roots they still grow back later).
4. Seeking balance. A beautiful and healthy garden is one with a variety of colors and types of plants. Too much of one thing can not only throw off the aesthetic of the garden, but it can also affect the balance of nutrients in the soil. Yoga is all about balance, too. Too many active poses can be exhausting or cause you to overheat, while too many passive poses can cause sluggishness. It takes a good mixture of both to create the desired result.
5. Dirty work. Yoga doesn’t work unless you’re willing to put in the work. There are times when it’s uncomfortable to hold a pose for as long as your teacher asks you to or when you feel too tired or rushed to do the practice. But if you come back to it again and again, you’ll see that the results far outweigh the occasional discomfort. I’m finding gardening to be the same way: I might not always want to get my hands dirty (and it’s pretty frustrating when I feel like my efforts aren’t paying off) but I know I will be incredibly proud when my plants thrive.