More Gain Less Strain

Before overdoing it this year, learn how to prepare your beds—and your body—for pain-free gardening and maximum enjoyment.

By Zazel Loven

Photography by Christa Neu


Quick Warmup
Gardening is a strenuous activity, so your body needs to loosen up before you start working it. Take a brisk walk to get your heart pumping and muscles ready to perform. Or try this routine developed for Organic Gardening by Barbara Benagh, a Boston yoga instructor. Ideally, Benagh says, start these exercises at least a month before the gardening season begins to strengthen your back and other potential sore spots and improve your balance.

Reclining leg stretch. Lie on your back with straight legs. Raise one leg 90 degrees from the floor and hold your foot with a strap or your hands. Keep your knee bent if you are unable to raise the leg 90 degrees. Breathe steadily and hold for one minute before releasing. Repeat the exercise with your other leg.

Back strengthener. Lie face down with your knees bent and arms at your sides. Breathe in as you raise your head and chest; breathe out while raising your arms and legs as high as possible. Hold for three breaths before releasing. Repeat twice more.

Upper-back tension melter. Standing, join your hands behind your back. Stretch your arms back and up behind you. Breathe in and hinge forward from your hips. Keep your hands clasped and stretch your arms overhead. Hold one minute.

Neck and spine stretch. Grip something solid (like the knobs of a door) and step back a couple of feet. Slowly hinge backward from your hips until you feel yourself hanging. Adjust your feet to maximize the stretch in your back and shoulders. Hold one minute.