Yoga and Permaculture in Practice
I'm laying on my back with my knees bent, right leg crossed over left, pulling with my right knee to coerce my lower body to twist to the right, towards the ground, while my torso and upper body twists to the left. Ouch. My tender knee is flaring, my back is pinching, my bruised hip is not happy. My mind is frustrated and agitated and I’m judging myself for everything I’m doing wrong, which is, of course, basically everything.
For me, this is the real yoga. This is the moment of truth: What do I do? How do I relate to my body in this moment? When I’m uncomfortable, what choices do I make?
I remember my breath. I take a few deep breaths, and I start to soften a little. I ease out of the pose a bit, until I’m in a position where I can relax and breathe. I’m still in a twist, but my body is no longer protesting. As I breathe here, allowing myself to stop trying so hard, accepting my body’s limitations, and just breathing into the spots of slight tension, something amazing happens: My legs start naturally dropping closer and closer to the floor. My breath deepens, my mind slows, my muscles and fascia unwind; the pose deepens. I feel spacious. I’m there.
How often is it that I’m trying too hard to make something happen? Where in my life might I be able to relax, back off a little, take some deep breaths, and allow things to unfold a little more slowly? Might my mind slow down, might I feel more spacious? And actually, while we’re at it, what IS the difference between forcing and allowing something to happen?
In Permaculture, one of the guiding principles of design is that we follow the design of nature. We design gardens, water and energy systems, buildings, and communities based on the way nature designs things. The inherent understanding here is that every element in an ecosystem has a function that it is perfectly designed to do, and if we put the structures in place to support those functions, we will have a well-functioning system with much less energy input and much less waste…a healthy, thriving ecology. In other words, we design the system to allow things to unfold as they were designed to by nature. We don’t force things to happen. We don’t ask cabbage plants to hurry up and produce us cucumbers. We don’t get mad at squash for growing on the ground, while the runner beans are busy climbing up a trellis. We don’t judge the tomatoes for needing warmer water than the lettuce, or the chickens for bathing in dirt. We just make sure everyone has what they need, to do what they were meant to do.
But for some reason, when it comes to humans, we tend to be our own harshest critics. We seem to think that there are endless achievements required of us, endless tasks to be completed, and impossible standards to live up to. I’m not saying we should give up all efforts to get anything done, but I’m wondering…if we recognized the places where we were trying to force something that feels a bit unnatural or even painful, and instead we slowed down, took a step back, took a few deep breaths, and gave ourselves some space to unwind…might we find that there are better ways of using our energy? Might we find the avenues of effort that are more naturally suited to us, that more naturally bring things to fruition?
We’re all designed to do something beautiful and brilliant, to be an important part of the ecosystem. Sometimes a step back, and a few deep breaths, can bring us much further than all the hard work and effort in the world.
Written at and inspired by Crann Og Eco Farm