Self-Care Tips for Gardening and Yard Work

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Spring is here and that means lots of time working in the yard and garden. Whether you consider it a necessary chore, or a joyful mental break from stress, yard work is also a form of exercise and can take a physical toll on the body. You likely already wear gardening gloves to protect your hands, and maybe use a foam pad when kneeling to protect your knees. It's also helpful to stretch before and after long hours working in the yard.

If you have the time, try a full yoga sequence designed specifically for gardening. Many people don’t have an extra 20-30 minutes on a busy day at home, so here are the key areas to target when playing in the dirt along with videos of suggested stretches.

Low back tension/pain after crouching, squatting or kneeling:

  • Quadriceps:

    • If you’re very flexible and the traditional quad stretch of pulling your foot to your glute doesn’t feel like a stretch, check out this video demonstrating 3 deeper quad stretches that target the psoas muscle as well.

    • For less flexible folks, either stick with the standard quad stretch, or try this modified quad stretch if it is too much to pull your foot towards your glute.

  • Hamstrings

  • Calves & Feet

    • “Walk it out” in place by alternating lifting one heel off the ground (as though you are going up on tip toes) until you feel a slight stretch in your foot.

    • Either use a step to brace the ball of your foot against and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your calf, or try this traditional calf stretch against a wall.

Hand & forearm pain or cramping after raking, clipping & digging:

  • Wrist Flexors and Extensors

    • After lots of of gripping work, it’s a good idea to take both hands through their full range of motion to help the muscles fully relax. Make a fist with both hands and then slowly open all the way with all fingers splayed open. Repeat 10-5 times until hands feel looser.

    • Draw circles in the air with your fingertips by rotating both wrists clockwise and then counterclockwise 10-15 times each direction.

    • Finish with a gentle forearm stretch for your wrist flexor muscles.

In addition to these stretches, try changing your position or task often. If you’re planting a lot of flowers, give your knees and low back a break from crouching by standing up often to walk a few steps. Or switch back and forth between tasks like watering and weeding to avoid being in one position for too long. Remember to engage your core when lifting and bending to protect your low back.

And of course, remember to hydrate well to replenish fluids lost through all that sweaty hard work!