Garden Yoga: Healing the Body and Soul – By Megan McCarver

The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry,

of painting and music, of religion and architecture,

all make the point as clear as possible:

The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.

If you don’t want paradise, you are not human;

and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.

–  Thomas Moore

Hello … My name is Megan McCarver and I’m a traditional Hatha yoga instructor. This article is dedicated to a dear friend, talented gardener, and student of yoga who calls herself a “pansy”. While celebrating her 70th birthday during the summer of 2009, she also celebrated the completion and success of five and a half months of aggressive Chemo Therapy.

One of my delightful weekly classes was driving to her home by Mission Viejo Lake—where all things grow, for a private yoga lesson. In her beautiful courtyard, original nature is captured. It is filled with vine-covered trellises, mixed shrub planting and colorful floral combinations. This garden sanctuary became life’s metaphor during her arduous journey through extensive Chemo Therapy.

Even after teaching yoga for 17 years, I continue to be a student, learning from life itself, and more so from my students. Her journey is an amazing inspiration, testifying to survival and witnessing nature at it’s best. During the five and a half months she suffered, her garden never lacked joyful color and a life force full of gratitude and enthusiasm. She never missed a week of her practice.  On days she had strength; she would prune and parade with delight. On days she felt depleted and depressed, she would sit with a view of her garden and listen to the humming birds or rest to the morning dove’s lullaby. Her garden was a healing force for her body and soul.

When asked to write of yoga and gardening, my eyes swell with big tears of joy. I witnessed another great yoga discipline: the view of her garden, the persistence and practice of letting go to become well while treasuring the present moment each and every day.

An Asana for Gardners

Yoga allows the student to reeducate their self with mindful action during daily doings. A regular yoga practice tailored to the students’ needs can create a lifelong, pain free sense of wellbeing, like a well-nourished garden.

Mountain PoseTadasana in your garden and be receptive to the original nature of everything.

Bring your mind and body to attention facing east in your garden. Stand up straight with the inner edges of your feet together and parallel. Distribute your weight evenly in your right and left foot. Distribute your weight evenly between the ball and heel of both feet. Spread the bones of your feet as you root towards the earth.

Draw energy up your legs by firming your knees towards your hips and stretching your calves towards your heels. Press the heads of the thigh bones back (where the thighs hook up in your hip sockets) and simultaneously stretch the crest of your buttocks down toward your back legs. The same way a plant draws the water and nourishments up from the soil, firm up your legs and stretch up towards the light.

Then lift the four sides of your torso away from your pelvis girdle. Extend your lower belly upward as your sacrum stretches downward. Climb your frontal sternum up as your shoulder blades cascade down your back and away from your spine. Broaden across your collar bones, melting your trapezius muscles down as you lengthen the four sides of your neck. Your ears are over your shoulders and your chin is level to the earth. Feel through the crown of your head like a flower seeking light.

Being still, awake, and resting your attention on your breath, feel awareness throughout your entire body. Notice and celebrate how every cell in your body is connected with your breath and light. Let the smooth rhythm of your breath calm your mind to show you inner peace and harmony. Draw your gaze inwards, relaxing deep in the hollow of the eye socket, relax the corners of your mouth, hollow of your mouth and your tongue in the lower palate of your mouth. Remain still, centered, and awake. Visualize the light radiating throughout your entire body and with each exhale, let that light hold Mother earth in compassion.

____________________________________________________________

headshot2012Megan McCarver, M.A., Yoga Therapist, RYT-e and a member of the Wellness Team for the Orange County Pain and Wellness Center.  Megan is assisting Dr. Lori Fazzio at Venice Family Clinic supporting LMU Rx Fourth Year Yoga Therapy Interns.  Megan earned her Yoga Therapy Certificate from Loyola Marymount University in addition to over 900 hours of formal teacher trainings in yoga, breathing and meditation since 1996 with an emphasis on individual therapeutic work.  She is a certified Yoga Works Instructor and co founded Santa Monica Yoga in Santa Monica. A member of IAYT, Yoga Alliance and Samata International Yoga, she holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage Family Counseling from Phillips University and has been mentored by Arun Deva for twelve years plus. Megan excels in building healthy communities, teaching meditation and mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga, and daily Ayurvedic healthcare to implement wellness for life style changes.  Megan instructs Mindful Meditation and has led many Yoga Retreats to Land of Medicine Buddha and assisted and co-led with Arun Deva to Southern India.

Megan likes to walk at sunrise and sunset, spend time with family and friends, to cook, to entertain, to water color, to read poetry and to travel.

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