Make it green: Yoga proves good parallel for growing a garden

There are at least two ways to do a yoga practice — three, actually.

Disposing of the first, which is more or less the way I have been practicing these past few years: go to class four times per week. Do the poses for an hour, sweat as much as possible (this is Iyengar yoga, after all). Struggle to ignore thinking about my book, my column, my garden while practicing. No other practice other than attending class.

More properly, the assiduous student performs his poses, one after the next to the best of his ability and as he remembers from class. Properly, the sequence is provided by the teacher. This is important because sequencing is key to yoga practice, and only the most experienced teachers are qualified to match a sequence to each student’s needs. In my own case, I am cursed with a lower back congenital issue, but more importantly I am lazy. My teacher knows this.

Attention, without demands

More importantly though I am drawn to yoga because it keeps my interest for at least an hour while assuaging the socially-derived inner angst associated with learning to find oneself. And, of course, running bores me to tears. Bicycling hurts my thighs. I could go on.

This evening I attended a class taught at Suzie’s studio by John Schumacher, an Iyengar student of many years and advanced teacher from washington D.C. How is this relevant to a column about plants?

I’ve had in the back of my mind for some weeks a year-ending piece with a simple theme: what have I learned from my garden? How has the business of gardening ingratiated itself into my life? While true, simply stating that gardening is simply part of who I am isn’t sufficient. For these past few weeks I’ve not found a “hook” into the story until tonight, in John’s class.

He talked about the third way to conduct yourself as you work your sequence: a more methodical and reasoned approach. Yoga, he says, is not about the poses. Any child can stand on his head and do it for fun. No, we practice sirsana because it requires us to be present: to, as BKS Iyengar describes it, to “quiet the movement of the mind.” This is what the yoga is, really: a method of quieting the mind, the monkey mind, by forcing an obviating immediacy. The mind is quiet because it is intensely engaged in watching the body.

John describes this third method: you must “dig into the pose.” You consider each movement, each limb, each extension. One wants to completely occupy the mind.

Meaningful yoga does not come easily. Run through your sequence if you wish, but do not call it yoga.

Gardening serendipity

This year I’ve planted seeds over and over again, only to experience partial failure and a sort of paucity of success that forces me to dig deeper into what is exactly happening. I watch each seed, invisibly until it breaks the soil, as it struggles to life, often failing. So it is with gardening, really. The successes are to be celebrated because they come at the expense of so many failures.

Call this experimental if you wish. At times, I do think we live in the pitiless universe of Thomas Hardy. When I finish whining, or wondering if it is simply poor technique, the garden speaks otherwise.

The January freeze, for example: A lovely thicket of heliconia outside Suzie’s office door stands once again with brown leaves. This plant recovered from the January freeze but of course did not show flowers this past summer. It is completely protected, just next to the building.

The lowest temperature we experienced here in Pine Ridge Estates was only 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold for the heliconia and for many of the tropicals. Many orchids were damaged at 42 degrees here.

And this: I am experimenting with a Peach tree brought by one of Suzie’s students; the tree was a gift to the student’s husband from her family. But said husband is so exasperated by the in-law family’s behavior towards his wife that planting the tree on his premises would have been a conspicuous reminder of a rabid relationship. Do you love it?

So the peach showed up one day. I had a spot previously occupied by a small, sweet Datura, the tree having been broken when hit by a car, and I had been planning to replace it with the Japanese fern tree, which, while quite lovely below the royal palm had been repeatedly disfigured by falling fronds. In the summer. Temperature: mid-90’s.

And as to the peach: this “Florida King,” developed by the University of Florida, was bare root when planted in April of 2009, and has been growing vegetatively quite nicely. And although this variety grows here in Florida, it does require rather more cool nights than we typically have here in Collier. Will this winter produce a terrific bunch of peaches? We shall see, but as it requires 400 hours of chill I have my doubts.

What does my garden teach me this year? Stay involved. Count on nothing except what happens. Celebrate success. Learn from failure and then ignore it.

Michael Spencer’s classes start next week at Barron Collier AdultEd. See his website for more information. Michael Spencer, ASLA, has been practicing landscape architecture for 27 years and is president of MSA Design, Inc. Web site: www.msadesign.com

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features