Spring has arrived and is resplendent! Heat, sun, wild flowers beautifying the fields, the trees with that early-season green, the bees with an incredible activity – days ago I was even stung in the midst of the bustle of a lost bee! Spring is one of my favorite times of the year and also here at our Yoga Devi – School of Yoga and Ayurveda because not only do we have more opportunities to be outdoors, but also because we start activities in the countryside. This year I have been clearing my land in Zebro, a land that I hope one day can welcome you to practice yoga, learn to cultivate, and receive Ayurveda treatments!
Ayurveda understands that there is no separation between us and nature. We are nature as I have repeated so many times. It’s all infinitely connected, and the past year has been (and still is) a not-so-subtle and even quite obvious reminder of what I’m writing. But our “modern” society tends to show no connection with nature. As if we were used to living in our comfort and looking to the great Mother only as a source of exploration without even offering thanks. The fact is that without Bhumi Devi we have no ground for our lives.
That’s why Ayurveda encourages us to constantly immerse ourselves in nature as one of the easiest and most fun ways to also take care of our body and health. Physically grounding, putting our hands on the ground, staying among trees, soaking up the sunlight, growing fresh, vital-energy food are all ways in which we can support our physical and emotional well-being. Moving the earth is, according to Ayurveda, a spiritual practice, which connects us directly to the Divine. Let’s start?
One of the most beneficial ways to reconnect with the earth is gardening. This can be done in cities too, with balconies and small corners! You don’t need to live in a place with a lot of land to connect with nature. Growing our own herbs and foods is very rewarding and beneficial to our overall health. Placing your hands in fresh soil, waiting patiently for the seeds to sprout, nurturing the plants, and then using what you’ve grown is unparalleled therapy.
There is a scientific reason why we tend to feel centered and happier after spending time in the garden. Researchers have found that mycobacteria found in soil can improve brain function as well as improve mood. Mycobacterium vaccae found in soil increases the production of serotonin in the brain. So getting your hands on the earth can literally make you feel happier.
Sunlight also helps to increase serotonin levels. Sunlight acts as an informational download, opens the retinas that trigger the release of serotonin, while providing a healthy dose of vitamin D. Ancient cultures had already understood the benefits of sunlight for mood and health, in particular the morning light (hello, greetings to the sun! how many times have I told you that they change our lives) and the sunset!
Ayurveda says that the best way to increase ojas is to increase prana. Foods that we grow ourselves, or local seasonal produce, have more prana, that is, more vital energy. These foods are abundant in prana because they attract the energies of the sun, earth and water as they grow. When they are picked up, the prana starts to dissipate. That’s why the fresher the food, the better it tastes! Fresh produce and herbs are full of prana. Farm markets and local co-ops are great alternative options if you don’t have the space or time to grow them yourself.
Another reason to take care of our Bhumi Devi, the great Divine Mother, the first mother we all have is because of the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, and growing food is a great way to do that. Taking time to nurture the Earth and give it back to the soil is a gesture that allows it to continue to nurture us with its ever-magical gifts. This is where spiritual practice resides. Deep connection with the Divine. Ayurveda views gratitude as part of the digestive process. Waiting for the seeds to sprout, for the plants to grow and mature, and then to harvest, is part of a great sense of accomplishment and gratitude. Foods taste more delicious when we work for them and we thank Mother Earth for the abundance.
Many of us don’t have the space, time, or skills to grow our food. All good! But you can start small, one plant at a time. What herb do you use most often? Or the one you think tastes the best? Parsley is easy to grow and low maintenance, a good start. Lavender loves neglect and weak soil, so if it doesn’t have a good green finger, it’s great. Tulsi is also very tolerant and develops easily in hot temperatures. Research what grows easily in your area and start there. Involve your children or family. Children love to see plants grow and may even be more likely to eat vegetables if they grow them.
Putting your hands on the earth and cultivating plants is therapeutic, meditative, great exercise, increases serotonin levels, brings health benefits and gives back to nature that gives us so much. Growing our foods and herbs allows us to connect deeply with nature and connects us so sweetly. So go out there, dip your hands in the earth, connect directly with the Divine, all while nurturing your general well-being. Have a good time!