Yoga for Farmers: Supporting our bodies for the long haul

I’ve decided to embark on a new journey this year as an advanced yoga student by taking the year-long 200-hour teacher training with Alignment Yoga in Madison. Why yoga & farming? Why add another layer to my life and the farm season? Good questions. I think yoga & vegetable farming compliment each other nicely in my life. I hope to be able share my own resiliency practices to support myself, my business partners, and my fellow farmers in a positive & sustainable way for the long haul. When farming is so much your life, it is important to have the tools to step out of that and reflect & relax away from the physical, mental, and economic strain.

So far, I’ve had two weekend intensives and it is remarkable how much I’ve already learned. We started with the anatomy of the pelvis and how the pelvis relates to healthy spinal and leg movements. I’m learning to feel ingrained patterns in my body, like how my body cheats to use the strength of my quads instead of utilizing my weaker hamstrings. It feels good to have increasing tools for self study and ideas about how to subtly train my body to be more balanced over time. Subtle training on the mat will hopefully transfer to a more intuitive & wise use of my body during strenuous farm projects. I’ll report back. :)

I’m interested in designing an accessible yoga program that would benefit me and anyone else interested, especially other farmers or people who work with their bodies. Why farmers? As a young vegetable farmer, I represent a very small portion of the population. Land owners are dying out, farm land continues to get developed, and its unaffordable for those seeking a simple agrarian lifestyle. Farming can be tough on bodies, plus those choosing this line of work are often stressed financially & socially from living/working in isolation. Many farmers work physically until they reach their breaking point – mentally, emotionally, financially – plus, we’re often so frugal that we don’t prioritize self-care & body work. Through yoga these past three years, I’ve found a much-needed work/life balance and I’d love to be able to share this philosophy with other growers & tradespeople. My own practice has centered & grounded me, led me to not have to leave the farm to mentally step back, and has helped to cure my seasonal allergies by starting my day with breathwork. Both yoga & farming have helped me come to terms with my own body image baggage and embrace my strength & heartiness as beautiful and feminine and powerful, in a way that our culture doesn’t always celebrate. I certainly don’t promise that yoga can do any or all of these things for someone else, but I think self-care guidance for folks who work physical jobs is very important. I can only share my own story, but I hope it can also be of help to others working the land and needing to unwind, ground, relax, and reflect.

I envision producing a “Yoga for Farmers (and other bodies that move)” podcast (or video series) someday with specific focuses for tasks on farms (lifting, bending, squatting, hauling) as an accessible resource for other farmers around the country. This is an idea that has visited me on & off for the past two years and I’m excited to gain more training so I have the confidence to pull it off. The series would consist of sequences that are succinct & effective for the summer months and then dig into longer more strength and heat building sequences for the winter months, including ones to encourage creativity in the planning process for the coming season. Its quite a niche demographic, but I see so many of my farmer friends injuring themselves during the season, and can feel changes in my own body as I age and do such physical tasks day after day. If you are a farmer/gardener reading this, I’d very much appreciate your feedback about what you would be looking for in a yoga practice designed with you in mind! Please fill out a survey here.

Other news around the farm – Clint is hosting a seed saving workshop on Saturday at the Fort Atkinson Public library – please join us to learn about possibilities for your own garden and to learn about what is in store this season at Regenerative Roots. We are excited to delve back into more farm planning (and likely seeding) shortly after Dennis gets back from El Salvador next Friday. The weather has us thinking spring. How about you?

~ Anne, February 15th, 2017