"Urban" and "gardening" is a contradiction in itself? Not at all! Together with the Ulm yogis, Raphaela proved that even on a roof terrace a small green paradise can be created.


After some time of planning and preparation, the event was finally ready to take place: on Saturday, 26 June 2016, a group of yogis with a "green thumb" met on the roof terrace of the AYI in the Ulm Oststadt district. Why? A number of helping hands had come to make the terrace space a little greener and to learn more about potting and planting from professional horticulturist Raphaela Gerlach. In the end, the sunny day turned into a lively joint project with a lot of gardening, yoga and salads and snacks that were not only tasty but also healthy.

Preparation is key.

With a relaxed AYI® pre-gardening session including a couple of sun prayers and asanas, Melanie set the mood for the gardening that was to follow. Happy and in a chilled mood, the group of gardeners, equipped with gloves and shovels, then set to work.

What is urban gardening?

The urban gardening trend started in New York in the 1970s, Raphaela tells us. There, so-called seed bombs were used to make roofs, gardens and median strips a little greener. Over the course of time, not only flowers but als vegetables were planted. However, it was noted that the plants began to increasingly absorb heavy metals, e.g. from exhaust fumes. For this reason, gradually more and more hedges were planted between median strips and roads to reduce the pollution on the plants. Of course, these projects were also about getting in touch with both nature and other like-minded people. In addition, the joint gardening projects served to bring life back to inner city areas. The well-known Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin is a successful example of this effect.

Urban Gardening at the AYI® Ulm

At the beginning of the gardening session, 23 year-old yogini Raphaela explained how we were going to procede. And also told us how the project had initially come about. Born in Münster, Raphaela has lived in Ulm since September 2015. During an Easter Retreat, she met Melanie and Ronald and learned about the AYI® Innovation method. Fascinated by the two of them and enthused about the Asthanga Yoga Institute, she moved to Ulm, spontaneously accepted a job interview at the perennial nursery Gaissmayer in Illertissen and - voilà - there it was, her new center of life in the picturesque city close to the Danube. For our event, she brought, next to a lot of plants, a number of different types of soil, seeds (non-genentically engineered) and literature on planting and potting.

On your earth, get set, go!

We started with producing the right mixture for a nutrient-rich soil as Raphaela had shown us before. In different groups, we then set to work and started planting according to a prefabricated plan and with the right techniques. Here, the important thing was to loosen the roots of the plants after getting them out of the plastic pots, for instance by making small cuts with a pair of hedge clippers or using one's fingers so as to make sure that the plants can set root again after they have been planted. The planting itself took place in white "baker's bags" and in baker's crates lined with cloth. As a general rule: almost anything can serve as a pot, you only have to let your creativity and ideas run wild. Then even old tins or cups will quickly turn into an imaginative hanging basket or flower pot.

Of course, we also labelled the plants and watered them with a soft jet of water. Now, cilantro, blood dock, sage, chervil, oregano, thyme and lavender are among the new residents of our roof terrace. On top of the enjoyable gardening experience, Raphalea simultaneously provided us with a lot of interesting information and details and thus considerably increased our knowledge on herbs. She was assisted by Daniel Pfeiffer, another expert from the perennial nursery, who joined us at the AYI over the course of the afternoon to answer the yogi gardeners' questions. Of course, there was also sufficient time for pleasant chats and a couple of breaks with a cup of tea or a delicious home-made snack.

What do raspery, arugula and kiwi have in common?

They now can all be found on the AYI's roof terrace - planted expertly in the right soil mixture and placed in a sunny spot. And what is more: they may be picked! "In this way, our yogis can not only reap the fruits of their practice on the mat but also directly from the pots!" Melanie says with enthusiasm.

At the AYI, there are now mostly perennial plants. Moreover, about 80% of them are herbs, i.e. edible plants. According to Raphaela, the great thing is that they immediately embellish any place, be it a balcony or a terrace. On top, the plants are incredibly variable and one can harvest both the leaves and the blossoms. Furthermore, they are easy to care for and leaves and blossoms have a variety of different uses. For instance, they make for a lovely fresh summer salad or they can be dried - as is for instance the case for parsley and verbena - and turned into a delicious tea. Or, as love parsley, added to a home-made soup to give it a summer taste. The only thing the plants still need is time to grow. "Now is the perfect time to observe the changes in form and colour," Raphaela says. Next to the herbs, there are also a couple of berry plants such as the rasperry which was planted in last year's gardening session and, of course, our bamboo. Which has no purpose other than to make our roof terrace more beautiful.

He who soweth, may also reap...;-)

The aim of the joint project of our AYI® yogis was to make the school greener and to thus create a pleasant new atmosphere in which to practice. The idea behind this is that our yogis from now on will not only take home the great feeling after their yoga practice but also have the chance to choose the right herb or spice for a healthy yogi diet. For this reason, the book "Echt scharf“ that Raphaela brought will stay at the AYI for all yogis to browse and gain new inspiration.

After the job was done and we had taken a look at the afternoon's work, we finished the day as we had started it on the mat. A couple of relaxing exercises for shoulders and neck were highly welcome and rounded off this busy and enjoyable sunny day.

Pure practice bliss in a great atmosphere

Even though the plants are easy to care for, they still need enough water. For this reason, it would be great if, especially in the hot summer months, a number of volunteers could be found who are willing to water the plants either before or after their practice. In this way, we will hopefully be able to enjoy our green oasis in its present form for a long time!

If the winter months are not too cold, the plants will stay on the terrace, protected by coconut matting wrapped around the pots.

Soon, we will have the chance to move our practice outdoors. A comfortable hammock, a stone ganesha and the colourful plants provide a picturesque and idyllic seeting in the Ulm Oststadt. "Even when the sun burns down, we will soon still be able to go out because our next plan is to install an awning for protection," Melanie tells us. She herself is looking forward to smell the scent of white melissa and Cretan dittany - which reminds her of this year's AYI® Summer Retreat in Greek which takes place from 4 to 11 June 2016.


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Raphaela Gerlach


AYI Schulen
AYInstitute® Ulm

AYInstitute® Ulm

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