Designing a Meditative or Yoga Garden

by Genevieve on May 25, 2014

Post image for Designing a Meditative or Yoga Garden

Guest post from Jan Johnsen, author of the new book Heaven is a Garden and my co-contributor over at Garden Design magazine.

Yoga and gardens are a natural fit! Both are very personal endeavors – Yoga practice elevates our sense of wellbeing and makes us more aware of the present moment while gardens encourage us to appreciate the ‘now’ as we inhale the aroma of flowers or the green atmosphere after a quiet rain. When you put the two together and create an outdoor space where you can practice Yoga in a meditative garden, it is joyful, indeed!

Gardens are a simple way to celebrate our time with Nature in our own individual way. Some of us thrill to a garden filled with flowers, in colorful bloom all summer. Others yearn to be in a quiet, simple space, with rocks and trees sighing in the breeze. Whichever type of environment speaks to you, it can become a Yoga garden where you face the morning sun and breathe in deeply.

Here are a few ideas that you can use to make your outdoor space a serene yoga garden.

Add sculptures

yoga schmidt 2014 JAN JOHNSEN web

Add statues or sculptures that add a feeling of serenity to the space. Here I placed an Indonesian figure with crystals in an offering bowl on a stone paver and planted ‘Yaku Prince’ rhododendron as a backdrop. Backdrops of any kind are very helpful in displaying an artwork. This is a sweet way to set the tone for a Salute to the Sun in the morning.

yoga schmidt 2014 BY JAN JOHNSEN 2 web

But the style of the sculpture you choose for your Yoga garden does not have to be Asian. Here is a very different art piece with a Southwestern flair. It is a different look but the calming atmosphere it helps to create is similar. The bowl on her head is actually an overflowing , recirculating fountain.

Make room for plants

Plants are the stars of a garden and those you choose for a Yoga garden can be as varied as you want. I suggest you contrast textures and add a lot of white for an outdoor yoga space. Here are three plants that add a white, soft accent to a garden:

yoga schmidt 2014 BY JAN JOHNSEN 3 web

Astilbe ‘Deutschland’ – this shade-loving perennial, a mainstay of woodland gardens, comes back every year with feathery flowers that look great in a mass in May and June. After they finish blooming I leave the flower heads on for the effect. I follow this up with Astilbe ‘Vision in White’ which blooms later and continues the white lacey display.

yoga schmidt 2014 BY JAN JOHNSEN 4 web

Variegated Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) is a great shrub that adds a bright spot in the yard with its gray-green leaves with a white margin. This looks lovely tucked in among other bushes.

‘Lucky White’ Lantana – I love white lantana flowers although I realize that in very temperate zones lantana can become invasive and may be seen as a noxious weed. Where I live, it is an annual and I like ‘Lucky White’ lantana for its clean, bright flowers, flecked with yellow. A nice touch, as shown here, is to plant it around a cast stone ball finial.

Create shade


Perhaps the most important requirement for an outdoor yoga space is shade. We all want a sweet, cool spot to be outside and if we have light, dappled shade from overhead trees or an arbor, we can enjoy it all the more. If you have a tree with heavy shade or low hanging limbs, you can create filtered shade by removing a lower branch. This is called ‘lifting the canopy’.

Another shady idea is an arbor nestled among trees, as shown, where you can place a mat and practice alone. Here again, the color white adds a clean, serene feeling to the setting.

yoga schmidt 2014 BY JAN JOHNSEN 7 web

Water, of course, is captivating addition to any garden! The sound alone is soothing and can aid in reflection and contemplation. A recirculating fountain can be the perfect accompaniment to your yoga time outdoors. Here water trickles over a Japanese style basin and recirculates back through the bamboo spout.

I hope these tips and photos inspire you to create a yoga garden! I discuss these ideas and many more in my new book, ‘Heaven is a Garden – Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection’ ( 2014, published by St. Lynn’s Press).

If you enjoyed this post, check out more of Jan Johnsen’s insights on her blog, Serenity in the Garden, and in her book, Heaven is a Garden.

And now, for the giveaway!

7106 use shotAngela’s Garden has kindly offered to celebrate the release of Jan’s new book with a generous giveaway – a matched set of her indigo gardening gloves and kneeling pads! I’ve been using her kneeling pads for some years for light-duty gardening such as weeding and veggie gardening, and – coincidentally – for yoga, to prevent my knees hurting when I’m kneeling on the hard ground. They’re soft and comfortable, and would make maintaining your meditative yoga garden even more fun.

Congrats to Bobbi Jean, our winner of the Angela’s Garden set of gloves and kneeling pads!!

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee Richardson May 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I was just in my backyard today clearing out leaves, branches, rocks, etc. We recently moved in and there is quite a bit to be done. Thank you so much for the incredible giveaway and for the wonderful info :)


Jan Johnsen May 26, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Thanks Renee- North Coast Gardening is such a wonderful garden blog – I am thrilled to share the info here. – Jan Johnsen


Barb Roberts May 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Jan Johnson is my muse. I knew about plants and gardening, but she has opened a new world to me with her landscaping.


Jan Johnsen May 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Barb -
Thanks so much for your kind words! It is my aim to share what I know with others..sharing the love. :-)


Heleene May 25, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I ordered this book but havent read it yet. I agree that some gardens have that special aura that truly makes you relaxed, while other gardens are just nice outdoor spaces.


Jan Johnsen May 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Exactly, Heleene! it is an aura of sorts….happy plants can actually make a garden feel wonderful. I say that you can feel a garden ‘sing’ when the plants are well cared for. Like when you water them with compost tea.


Diane LaSauce May 26, 2014 at 5:15 am

Thanks to Annie Haven, I learned of your site and am wowed. Must look for a copy of this beautiful book! Diane


mark john May 26, 2014 at 8:01 am

good article to read


Debra Lacy May 26, 2014 at 8:27 am

I love to practice yoga. I just wish that I live in a climate that it can be practiced outdoors more often! Seattle can be a challenge.


Carolyn G May 26, 2014 at 9:24 am

I am so excited that I can get into my garden again. After a long winter it feels good to put my hands in the ground


Corrine May 26, 2014 at 9:25 am

What really made our gardens fun a few years ago …added perennials for an ever-changing view through the seasons. It drew my husband into gardening alongside me because he likes the uniquely shaped flowers or foliage that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. We laugh together as he describes what he saw out in the yard & I try to figure out which plant he’s referring to. For example, “seahorse lips” described Primrose Miller’s Crimson & dinosaur leaves were hosta. He’s learning plant names and I’m making up nicknames to help him remember them, so we have less of these nightly conversations where I am guessing & he’s describing. After over 25 years of marriage we’re both learning something new.


Jan Johnsen June 15, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Corrine, sounds like you have a fun time !


Madeline May 26, 2014 at 9:36 am

I love blue flowers in a garden! I’ve been planting blue morning glories for the past few years. I also love yoga but I haven’t tried it outside yet.


Debra Lee May 26, 2014 at 9:51 am

What a lovely giveaway! I have just started m yoga journey.


Debbie S May 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for the peaceful garden tips!


Mary Withrow May 26, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I love to spend as much time as possible outside. I love to go hiking and making your garden is what gives me the Zen! Lol – Thank you, Mary


Susan Moseley May 26, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Garden gloves and knee pads are my friend in the yard for this 57 year old. I can’t hardly do without them, and I can sure go through some. What a lovely site you have and thank you for the information and opportunity to win.


Jen. May 27, 2014 at 6:04 am

Ah, delightful! Much inspiration & loveliness.


brian May 27, 2014 at 7:25 am

inspirational article


Ann May 27, 2014 at 10:23 am

Hmmmm – Outside, in the garden watching the bees work, wild turkeys chattering to themselves – this IS a little piece of heaven on earth. What a blessing!


Jan Johnsen June 15, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Ann, a blessing indeed!


Gina M May 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Gardening is my absolute favorite activity, and I could really use the knee pads for weeding my garden.

Thanks for the chance to win!
wildorchid985 at gmail dot com


Rust May 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Knee pads and gloves ….a very sweet giveaway, and items I would surely get a lot of use out of! I’ve already put in three new flower beds this spring and am just getting started!


linda erickson May 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm

thanks for the chance to win


Bobbi Jean May 27, 2014 at 8:02 pm

I am fortunate to have a beautiful and serene backyard thanks to my husband’s hard work. Your tips were very timely as we just made some additions and I am excited to create a yoga space. Thank you!


Jan Johnsen June 15, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I hope your husband is inspired as well! Thanks….


debra p May 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Two things that I love dearly are yoga and gardening. Both so very good for the heart, mind and spirit.


Jan Johnsen June 15, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Debra – gardens and yoga are a natural fit!


April H. May 28, 2014 at 4:54 am

I visited the Japanese garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden over 10 years ago and I still remember how beautiful it was, even in March. If you have good “bones” in your garden, it looks amazing year round.

Thanks for the giveaway!


Lisa Harris May 28, 2014 at 9:53 am

Simplicity, sanctuary, and delight.
Thank you for this advice on building a garden that could be built around my meditation practice. This is a great stepping stone for me to design upon. Thank you for contributing to all of our lives with this article. I am a twice a day meditator, and I wish all would practice this art. The world will be happier when we all do!


Jan Johnsen June 15, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Lisa Harris – keep on doing what you do! and I agree with you about meditating for all….



Doris May 29, 2014 at 8:00 am

Thanks for the giveaway!


Mariam May 29, 2014 at 8:01 am

Gardening is my passion!


Sara Starr May 29, 2014 at 7:55 pm

really enjoy your site. Working on a dry/seasonal stream at present; thanks for the give-away!


Amy Orvin May 30, 2014 at 9:05 am

I love to garden a need a new pair of gloves. Thanks.


Lynn May 30, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Your article inspired me to create a garden space for yoga this summer. The specific suggestions you make will be very useful.


Holly B May 30, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I’m just starting to get into gardening, these would be such wonderful accessories to have!


Solducky May 31, 2014 at 6:53 am

I love the lavender color. Thanks!


Vivian Sun May 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

I want to start a small garden with my kids. Just need to gather up the supplies :)


Jan Johnsen July 30, 2014 at 7:06 am

I think they would love it!


Laurin June 12, 2014 at 8:15 am

Great post! I love Jan’s new book and it expanded my knowledge on history and reasons behind design ideas. Make a garden that invites you out into it so you can be in nature is the best kind of garden to me.


Jan Johnsen June 15, 2014 at 9:48 pm

hi Laurin! Thanks so much for all your support!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: