Connection to the earth can have a tremendous impact on our health and happiness. There’s even compelling scientific evidence that dirt can make you happy! Soil microbes contain the natural antidepressant Mycobacterium vaccae, a substance that has been found to mirror the effects of Prozac and similar drugs on neurons. These microbes cause cytokine levels to increase, resulting in higher serotonin levels. The bacteria is passed on when a gardener inhales dirt, touches it, or it is passed through a cut in the skin. The evidence that connecting with the earth has real life benefits is there but for many New Yorkers, there’s not a lot of opportunities to do so.
Harlem Grown is combatting this, giving community members the opportunity to garden, fostering connections both with nature and as a community. This non-profit organization seeks to inspire youth by giving them knowledge about sustainability, farming, and nutrition, inspiring a healthy, happy lifestyle. Additionally, their farms give the community knowledge of and access to healthy foods, an essential aspect of Food Justice.
For the past few months, Three and a Half Acres has been holding weekly yoga classes, free and open to the community. Teaching these classes has been incredible. Together, we practiced under a pear tree, breathed in the fresh scent of the trees and dirt, and soaked up the summer sun in savasana. The classes have grown so much since we began. Slowly, we watched our attendance grow until students filled the lawn. The abundance felt in this experience is like no other. Students begin their Saturdays with yoga and then volunteer their time and effort to take care of the farm. By giving Harlem residents a place to garden, they are giving them a community to sink their roots into and inevitably yield abundance for everyone involved.
Living in New York, there are few opportunities to stick our hands into the dirt and slow down for a few hours of peace. Harlem Grown provides a sanctuary from the demands of everyday life in Manhattan. Connecting with the earth brings deep healing power, especially in combination with yoga. When we meet on Saturday mornings, we utilize breath, asana, and meditation to facilitate a full healing experience, harnessing the abundance of the land and finding our power. The relationship between body and breath in combination with the beauty of the natural world has fostered a blissful experience for everyone. By flowing together, we are fostering community, mutual support and healing for students from all walks of life.
By: Natalya Malarczuk
THAY Trauma Informed Yoga Teacher Training Graduate