Yoga Perspective – Our Garden

A green dress mottled with flowers caught my eye at the Thrift store. In its print, I sensed an ancient, pervasive, almost unconscious relationship between women and plants. I wanted the dress but more accurately, I wanted the garden – the unexplored depths of the partnership.

There’s a symbiosis between us. It’s in our names, such as Heather, Daisy and Iris. It’s in our body products, our treatments for illness and our food. Our very identities seem entwined. A woman, similar to a flower, is fleetingly beautiful, delicate and sexually passive. And much like a plant, a woman is earthy, powerful and inclined to nourish and heal, or perhaps to destroy.

The long intermingled path of women and plants has evolved into the environmental movement, with a renewed appreciation of Mother Nature as both creator and destroyer.

Sheila na Gig, the Celtic goddess figures of medieval times is marked by a female form, vulva spread, found in stone and wood on churches and public walls. She was put there not by craftsmen, her form was too crudely expressed for that, but by common folks. Her stance suggested the claim to creative and generative powers. Churchmen and the high-minded tried to erase her from the walls. Some of the carvings were defaced. She is acknowledged in Ireland as Neolithic, dating to about 7000BC or five times longer than recorded history.

In yogic terms, Mother Earth is the foundation of all postures or asanas. Whether seated, standing, inverted or supine, we move from the base of our contact with her. When we take our seat before beginning a yoga practice, legs crossed at the shins and feet tucked under our thighs, we are placing ourselves squarely between Heaven and Earth.

Sit on some firm support with your shins crossed. Allow your thighs to drop below the front of your pelvis (or your waist if you’re not sure where the front of your pelvis is.) If your knees are still higher than your pelvis or waist, take more support under your buttocks. You should feel comfortable as you let the feet rest on the surface of your mat or the floor, and roll your thighs from inside to out. Feel the "sits bones" or ischial tuberosities which form the base of your pelvis, pointing down towards the Earth. Emphasize that action by picturing them sending down roots. Let any tensions you may feel in your body drain from your toe tips into the Earth – she has the power to transform it into useful energy. Let the arches of the feet deepen toward the Earth, the Great Mother herself.

And from the firm base of the lower body, extend the spine, side, ribs and breastbone upward. With elbows bent, let the shoulders rest downward, and the palms rest on the thighs. Imagine a single golden strand lifting the crown of your head heavenward. Let the head be buoyant on the top of the neck and spine.

Then begin to draw energy from the roots you have planted, up the front of the spine until it reaches the front of the throat. Let it pass to the back of the neck, and over the crown of the head, down the face, and from the throat, move back and down the back spine. Breath encircles you in the shape of the sign of infinity. You are tucking yourself into a plentiful and generative energy field.

You can bring a flower or plant of your choice to mind, to inspire the upward movement toward the Light, as well as the descent of your rooted feet and legs to the nourishment of the Earth. In Eastern symbolism, it is the lotus that represents that which arises from mud into the Light.

The goddess figures of old, whose feet and legs were invisible to the eye, seemed to arise from the Earth as though they were the very Earth itself. In yoga, we take our seat or find our feet, and once more invoke and exchange the finite and infinite within the matrix, or garden of all life.