Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strawberry Yoga

Okay, back to the lighter side of life at Berryridge Farm. You might not think that growing your own food and yoga has much of a connection. But this summer, I not only realized the importance of yoga at our little farm, but that there are many different kinds. I don’t mean Hatha, Ashtanga, or Kundalini yoga—I’m talking Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry and even Fudge.

It all started with a fabulous book called Chocolate Yoga. While author Margaret Chester approaches her practice with a wry sense of humor, the book is full of wisdom that feels both innovative and time-honored. Chocolate Yoga is about all the ways you can use the small moments of your life to relieve stress, and bring more peace and contentment into your life. Margaret Chester's stress-busting yoga also feels so natural, even organic in a way, you might find yourself thinking, “this stuff is so easy, why didn’t I start it a long time ago?” Practicing Chocolate Yoga, which provides lots soothing mantras like “what can I let go of right now?” and “there is no rush,” has made me realize all the many varieties of yoga that can be sort of organic, besides the Chocolate kind.

Take Vanilla. For years, I’ve been doing some basic yoga stretches to loosen up after riding my bike, plus a few more for my creaky back. Vanilla yoga is nothing fancy, just something to get the kinks out. But a couple of months ago, it came to me that I’ve invented a whole new style, Strawberry Yoga. This yoga practice starts in late June, when the berries come in. Here on Berryridge Farm, to keep out the critters, our strawberry beds are fenced and netted within an inch of their lives. Naturally, it’s a huge hassle to undo everything for picking, so you’ve got to climb over the fencing, clamber under the nets, then peer under the thick foliage, searching for flashes of red. Of course, the ripest, most delectable berries are always just out of reach, so Strawberry yoga involves contorting yourself into some really awkward positions. These vaguely resemble popular yoga poses like Warrior, Downward Dog, and Half-standing Forward Bend, only they’re really uncomfortable. Sometimes, picking strawberries means you’ve got to stand on one foot to avoid stepping on choice berry clusters—then, you’ll find yourself doing a kind of one-legged crane pose popularized by the Karate Kid.

I like to think I’m simply modifying some basic poses, but I know in my heart yoga isn’t supposed to be painful.

Now, unlike traditional, Vanilla, or Chocolate yoga, Strawberry does not increase your fitness level or decrease your stress. It strains your joints, torques your knees, and ties your muscles into knots, necessitating even longer sessions of Vanilla Yoga, or even a trip to the physical therapist.

There’s a still another variety of "organic" yoga: Fudge. Like Strawberry, it’s another yoga practice you don’t realize you’re doing until it’s too late. I’ve often been doing Strawberry yoga all day, picking berries, or crawling through our overgrown asparagus patch for weeding (and wondering, how do the weeds grow in the dark, under all this thick foliage anyway?). Or I’m cleaning the chicken coop, leaning sideways to avoid brushing up against all the “stuff” ingrained on the walls, the roost, and the nest guard. Then, before I know it, the day is gone and I’m starving. So I go inside to start dinner, and I’ve “Fudged” on my vanilla yoga.

Fudge yoga also comes into play this time of year, when harvest creates a veritable Perfect Storm: you’ve got to water, weed, pick, put up the fruits of your labor, sow your fall crops, and collect seeds for next year. I often wake up in the morning, and my mind starts racing through the gazillion chores I should accomplish that day: the loganberries and tayberries need pruning, it hasn’t rained for a month and I’m miles behind on watering, the woods are seriously encroaching on our crops and I’ve just got to start hacking at the underbrush, and while I’m at it, the cukes are coming in by the dozens and I should be making pickles. Naturally, the days are getting shorter but my chore list is getting longer! Before I know it, I’m getting more and more stressed out—and I’ve fudged on Chocolate yoga too.

However, it helps to keep in mind that Chocolate Yoga is your dedicated veggie grower or mini-farmer’s saving grace. It helps relieve that pressure of those dozens of chores, all of which must be done simultaneously. Chocolate Yoga helps you focus on what’s really important (like your breath), and remember that “this too, shall pass.” In other words, it will soon be a cold and rainy November, and you’ll long for those crazy-busy days in the light and warmth of late summer.

So I’m heading outside, to weed and water and harvest, and trying not think about how late I’ll be up tonight washing, cutting, pickling, and freezing. But hey, I’m not worried. I have Chocolate Yoga! I take a deep breath. There is no rush.