Make time to give yourself the gift of wellness
I often joke that farmers never get holidays. By holidays I mean that time that most people spend away from home doing recreational activities.
I started farming six years ago raising goats on my husband’s mom’s property, but we lived in town for the first two years. During my four years of onsite farming, I quickly realized that I am only off the hook from mid-December to mid-January.
Three part breathing- mindful breathing to warm up and use the full capacity of the lungs. In a comfortable seated position, shoulders and pelvis are aligned, with an elongated spine and chin parallel with the ground. Inhale to fill up the bottom, middle and top of lungs. Exhale and empty gradually from top to bottom. Start within what your body has to offer and begin to lengthen and deepen the breath whenever it feels right to you.
Let me explain off the hook. Though I can’t travel, I can take a break from thinking about farming or working all day (although last year my husband and I ordered all our seeds the night of December 24). Of course, I still tend our heritage breeding stock of ducks, chickens, geese, turkeys and sheep as well as our guard dogs.
Unless it snows a whole lot and buries coops, daily chores take only a couple of hours. The property has been put to rest to the best of our abilities, the coat of snow makes it all pretty and tidy, and the time for forestry and pruning hasn’t come just yet. We hold off collecting eggs to incubate until February, even though the garden planning and seedlings might happen sooner rather than later.
So, yes, for that couple of weeks, body, mind and spirit can rest and just be. One of my priorities then is attunement. What is it? To bring harmony, balance and peace into oneself, between the physical, mental and emotional bodies. What do I do to access it? I practice yoga movements that I designed to reset myself deeply. What does it look like? It’s slow, gentle, and introspective so I can gradually peel back the many layers of strain and stress, and reboot.
For many of us, farming is a lifestyle as well as a livelihood. As much as we might wish, we’re not in control of many aspects — like work schedule, weather, emergencies, and so on. So farming comes from a strong passion and a profound belief. It’s not easy because our whole self is intertwined with all we do. It’s heart crafted.
Restorative twist- with or without the use of a pillow or blanket, find a comfortable spot to lie to your side with bent legs and torso facing towards the earth. The placement of your arms and head are completely up to your comfort. Breathe deeply along your spine, and hold as long as it feels right to you.
We’ve all heard or witnessed stories of farmers giving up their activities because it didn’t fill their cups anymore, because their bodies physically, mentally and emotionally were done. It’s only fair to withdraw yourself from life situations that don’t honour you anymore.
But farmers are needed more than ever. Small farms feed neighborhoods, offering quality, respectful food to others while helping regenerate and sustain our planet. How about the farmers though? Their regeneration? Their sustainability? If farming is so hard and beautiful, how do we support and foster farming for current and coming generations?
I am about to tell you something that you already know, but at times it takes on another meaning when someone else says it: You are the most important part of your farm, the most valuable tool, the very core of it.
I’m inviting you to take a moment to think about how much you invest in your farm tools? Machinery? Infrastructure? Livestock? Marketing? I can replace the word “invest” with “care for.” How much do you care for your farm tools? Machinery? Buildings? Livestock? Marketing?
A whole lot.
And you? You personally: how much do you invest and care for your physical, mental and emotional bodies? Allow yourself a moment to reflect on this.
When does your self-care, tune-up, rest, repair, checkup, maintenance, service — whatever you want to call it, happen? On a regular basis? Daily? When it’s needed? When it’s too late? Barely ever?
This process isn’t about shaming or guilting you, it’s about awareness and honesty, about putting things into perspective. Not too unusual for this time of the year, when things start to slow down and we’re getting to the end of our latest cycle around the sun.
You might very well realize positive and less positive patterns. Many of us care for ourselves last. When there is so much on the front line, it’s understandable. When you start comprehending the importance of you in your farming, that you are at its very centre, doesn’t it make sense that everything would start and end with your wellness?
I used to neglect my well-being, until I realized that farming should sustain and regenerate not only the Earth but me as well. So, I tapped into my yoga knowledge and tweaked it for my farmer’s life. My yoga became simple and efficient. I practice it on the job, on my living room or bedroom floor, sometimes with the use of a blanket or a pillow for support. No studio space, no crowd, no mat, no fancy clothes, just me in the field, the grain room, near the chicken tractor, on the ground, taking a moment for myself, a moment of «swift ease».
With the realization that I wanted to farm for the rest of my life and grow young through it, everything unfolded into a profound understanding of global regeneration and deep connection to myself and the planet. It only makes sense now during these slower-paced months to get to that reset mode.
Psoas release- on the hard & flat surface of the ground, bend your legs, put a block or pillow in between your knees and fasten your lower legs with a strap/scarf, so that it supports your legs from collapsing inward or outward. Make sure your feet have their outside edges parallel. Your back and head are resting on the floor, palms of the hands oriented toward the sky. Gently tuck your chin in toward your chest with a nice elongated spine. Release the weight of the pelvis and shoulders down. Breathe deep in your belly and soften all of your muscles.
The beauty of the yoga movements I created is that they follow me organically in all stages of my life and seasons of the years. They mature with me and give me the opportunity to listen to my body’s own wisdom and to fine-tune.
The establishment of such a practice starts slowly and steadily with lots of self-compassion. I believe that the winter months are ideal to begin this wellness journey. Inspired by this, I created a Winter Care Program for myself and to share with others. I’m offering the opportunity for Growing For Market readers to sample what I’m providing in my program.
Because I understand that it can feel overwhelming and disorienting to set in motion your own wellness practice, here are three positions in the photos as a foundation, and one video integrating these positions into a mini yoga class. You can watch the 15 minute class at tinyurl.com/3pmksu3a. I put emphasis on the breath, the psoas muscles and restorative poses.
The breath is the source of life and learning to let it guide you through the yoga movements fosters connection to your body’s natural rhythm.The psoas are the longest muscles of the body, running from the top of the lumbar spine and attaching to the inner thighs. They are linked to our reptilian brain and fight-flight response. The muscles store our physical, mental and emotional stresses.
Finally, restorative poses — holding for a long period of time and resting with your body propped with blankets and pillows — help the muscles resist less during the stretch as they feel supported. So, relaxation comes sooner and deeper.
What better investment and care can you offer your farm than the gift of your wellness?
If you enjoy practicing with me, consider registering for my “Farmers Winter Care” four-week online program. Two sessions are available: November 17 to December 8 and January 12 to February 2. For more details you can follow this link https://tinyurl.com/pk9d73zu or contact me at [email protected].
Feel free to reach out to me if you want to share feedback about the content of this article. I love connecting with like-minded people. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram at The Farmer Yoga Teacher. And finally, you can subscribe to my free Farmers Wellness Circle newsletter at http://eepurl.com/hH9SPn.
Julie Bradley-Low is originally from France, and met her husband 10 years ago WOOFING on the farm that they now own: @stonegrovefarmandwellness Stone Grove Farm & Wellness Studio near Wiarton, Ontario, on the Bruce Peninsula in Canada. They holistically & ethically raise heritage livestock for their Artisanal Meat CSA, free range their two young boys, and regenerate their land. Her husband is (also!) a Registered Massage Therapist and she is (also!) a Certified Yoga Teacher. They’ve been farming for about 4 years and offering wellness services for over 10 years. Her intention is to connect & share paths with like-minded farmers and offer them support as a yoga teacher. From experience she knows how farming can be beautiful, rewarding and fulfilling, as well as tough physically, emotionally & mentally.