Cows, Crows, and Downward Dogs

by Meg Schader

What’s yoga got to do with farming? Everything, in my case. Strength, resilience, and focus are all skills necessary for both yoga and life on a farm. Yoga keeps my body strong, my mind flexible, and my spirit in balance. My practice helps make me a more patient mother, a more loving wife, and a more compassionate farmer.

Through yoga, I’ve learned how to listen to both my cows and my customers with care. My practice fortifies me with energy to get through the long days on our farm. It gives me hope, helps me to find ways to deal with everyday problems, and keeps my mundane chores in perspective. It reminds me that I am part of something larger than my little farm.

Yoga reminds me to stay open and keep learning. Even when I think I understand a posture, having practiced it hundreds of times, I find myself discovering more about it. This often happens when I least expect the insight. Yoga reminds me that each moment is different from the last. On the inhale, I stand perfectly balanced and confident in Dancer. As I exhale, I feel a subtle shift in my being, and I fall out of the pose, perfectly clumsily. My monkey mind becomes loud and obnoxious when I practice, and this helps me to recognize its voice when I am not on the mat.

This is why I decided to become a yoga teacher. I wanted to share these tools, and practice them with my neighbors, in my hometown. I have fond memories of a class I attended over a decade ago, which was about more than the sum of each person's individual experience. There was an element of community, of kula, both on and off the mat, between the teacher and students. When our teacher moved on, I tried to find another class like that, and when I couldn’t, I realized that I needed to create it.

When I first thought about becoming a teacher, I wondered whether I had the qualities and personality necessary to serve others in this capacity—to be the person in the front of the room, leading the practice. What seemed scary at first has become a joy—I truly look forward to meeting my sangha on the mat twice a week, to the challenge of planning each class, and to what we will learn together. This practice sustains me. It gives me a sense of belonging and contributing to my community, and fills me with the knowledge that I am creative, capable, and whole.

Through yoga, I’ve come to understand the meaning of the Sanskrit word purna, which translates as “complete.” I feel fulfilled and abundant, and able to let go of what I no longer need. I’ve donated bag after bag of clothes, books, and appliances to the Rescue Mission lately. The clutter is gone, and the subtle energy of our family moves with ease through our small home.

For 20 years, my yoga teachers have been telling me that I am perfectly imperfect. I’ve read the yogic texts, memorized the yamas and niyamas. I’ve cultivated santosha (contentment) and practiced aparigraha (non-attachment). I’ve spent the better part of my life looking for the key, turning towards self-improvement books and spiritual guides. Reading and understanding are two different things. Life changed when this concept finally clicked. I developed a sense of hope that life has something to offer. I realized that the world is working itself out through me and, as yoga scholar Douglas Brooks says, I am the point the universe is trying to make. I finally understand how I can be perfect and imperfect at the same time.  I am able to reconcile and weave together all the disparate parts of myself into wholeness, knowing that I am inventing the world, and it is inventing me. I’ve become a co-creator with the divine, empowered, no longer a victim of circumstance.

Yoga allows me to stay engaged—as a farmer, mother, and yogi. It supports me in embracing the paradoxes of the world while working to solve its problems, and gives me hope for solutions still to come.

Meg Schader milks cows twice a day and teaches yoga twice a week. She is owner of Wake Robin Farm and Hayseed Yoga, both located in Central New York. Meg graduated from the 200-Hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training program in 2013. 

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