Strike a Pose

Praying Mantis posing on sage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Praying Mantis posing on sage (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

People often ask me: “How do you do it all,” referring to how I care for the yard, gardens, animals, home, full time job and blog.  And it’s a good question, one that I get tired just thinking about (especially now, with the added burden of holiday preparations). Organizational skills come into play, my husband certainly contributes to some yard work and household chores, but in the end I have a lot of physically demanding tasks to perform on a daily basis.  And, I’m not getting any younger.

Kitty Stretch in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Kitty Stretch (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

One of the things I attribute to my ability for staying active, even as age continues to creep up, is yoga.  While some folks think of yoga as a series of poses and breathing techniques that don’t amount to a whole lot, I’m here to tell you that yoga literally saved my physical body from further self destruction (my lower back is already screwed together).  About six years ago, I met a gifted and experienced yoga instructor that taught me how to stretch, strengthen and breathe myself back to a healthier, stronger, better balanced and better postured person, and the same can happen for you.

Downward Facing Dog in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Downward Facing Dog (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

In the past, I attended a lot of yoga classes and “went through the motions” of downward-facing dog, cobra, a few warrior poses, savasana and out the door.  No big deal.  But when I finally found an instructor that taught me to LISTEN to my body and do what it wanted me to do, that’s when things really started to change in my life, both physically and mentally. I found myself stopping mid-way through a strenuous task, something I would never have done in the past, simply because my body was telling me: “Enough”!  Here are a few elements of yoga that I enjoy and benefit from daily, and I hope you will too:

*Stretching:  I try to dedicate at least a few minutes each morning to side stretches and bending over (forward folding) to stretch my back and hamstring muscles.  I can’t tell you how much this has helped me when moving around the garden and trying to maneuver in the tight situations of everyday life.  As we age, our muscles tend to constrict and tighten, so daily stretching (comfortably-not painfully) can be incredibly beneficial to increasing comfort levels during activities as well as preventing future injuries.

*Breathing: It is amazing how little attention we pay to this essential part of our lives.  When we actually tune in to our breath, we may find that we are usually taking in short, shallow breaths, except during heavy exertion.  However, if we can remember to stop and take a few very deep breaths, a feeling of calmness and control immediately envelops us with each intake.  During my drive to work when traffic is particularly hectic, or when I have a difficult customer at work, a few deep breaths (and a little cursing) really help to center me.

*Poses:  As you experience your practice, different poses will be more welcome to you, they will “speak” to you, inviting you to embrace them more deeply over time.  Certain poses I perform only during classes, while other poses I do almost every day, as they feel like what my body wants and needs.  Personally, I like various stretches, chair pose (utkatasana), triangle pose (utthita trikonasana), fire-log pose (agnistambhasana) and portions of sun salutations.  What I would love to run away from are extended periods of downward facing dog, lunges and pigeon.  But that’s just me.

A Nice Back Stretch in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

A nice back bend (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Remember that each time you practice, yoga becomes “your individual practice” and you can personalize it by doing what your body wants and needs, instead of exactly what your teacher is asking.  I’m not saying to be disruptive, nor do I suggest you try to refrain from some difficult poses.  Although in the beginning pigeon was so intense I almost threw up, I have learned to breathe and work through it, which is what my body needed.  But, sometimes you are in a pose and you want to stay in it a little longer, you want to stretch a little deeper, you feel your body opening.  That’s the time when I listen to my body and alter from the class for a few moments.  Most instructors understand this.

Savashana on a Lily Pad in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Savasana on a Lily Pad (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

As a result of my many years of practice, I have a stronger core, my balance is better, and my posture has improved substantially.  I consciously engage my back muscles instead of my shoulders when I lift heavy shrubs or pails of grain.  When I slip, my balance is quickly restored.  And, I find it has helped to maintain my weight.  Yoga has truly benefitted my life, allowing me to continue to do the things many people my age stopped doing years ago.  Even my mother (a fellow yoga practitioner) is still out mowing her lawn and riding her horses well into her 70’s.  So, if you’re feeling a little stiff and creaky, consider trying a lower level yoga class (you don’t need high intensity to benefit) and see if you don’t look and feel a whole lot better.  A few deep breaths (and a glass-or two-of wine) just might help through the upcoming festivities as well~

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Comments

  1. LOVED IT!!!! Great info, and photo’s!

  2. Needless to say, this goes to my top 5 list of A Garden for All posts! So well written (and funny) and tells it like it is, without all the woo woo that is sometimes associated with yoga. Keep it up – stretch it out and breath it in Kathy!

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