Funny, as a kid, getting grounded was the worst thing in the world. It didn't happen often for me, but when it did, I was not happy. Now, as an adult, the concept of getting grounded takes new meaning.
Getting grounded is something I strive for on a daily basis. As someone who hosts a mind that moves a mile a minute, often worries more than trusts and has suffered from low grade anxiety for as long as I can remember, getting grounded is a welcome state of being.
The concept of grounding used to be pretty elusive to me. I thought that multitasking, feeling scattered and bouts of dizziness and disconnection were normal. In fact, I don't think I really knew what getting grounded felt like until the practices of yoga revealed this to me. I spent so much of my life operating from the sympathetic nervous system (flight, fight or freeze) and so much time writing stories in my mind that I would often experience a strange 'out of body' feeling. Sometimes, this showed up as dizziness, trouble finding the right words or even a tingling/numbness in the tongue or lips. (Mom, if you're reading this, I've been to the neurologist. It's not a physical thing. This is an energetic imbalance.)
These physical symptoms of an energetic imbalance used to freak me the f*ck out. And, then, I learned how to get grounded and when I sensed a scattered or flighty feeling in the physical body, I would respond with a practice that grounded my energetic body.
It is totally empowering to have the tools to shift my experience from feeling:
- at ease
Last week, I was sitting outside with a glass of ice cold white wine enjoying the 85 degree evening, humidity and all, when Fall blew in. Literally. A huge gust of wind and suddenly it was 60s, dry and time for a glass of red. For someone who is predisposed to feeling ungrounded and sensitive to quick changes, this abrupt entrance of Fall rattled me.
I'm all for boots and sweaters, but I need time to let go of my flip flops and sun-bathing. Interesting, because, how you show up in one place is how you show up in every place, right? Right...
I'm not good with abrupt change when it comes to nature, but I'm also not good with abrupt change anywhere else - work, relationships, etc. I like routine. I want to know the plan and I want to stick to the plan. I thrive on tradition. So, when something rocks the boat, I resist and it throws me off, makes me feel completely unsteady, ungrounded. The great gift of yoga, awareness, has made me keen to this pattern, though, and I've figured out how to work with myself. And I want to share some of those practices with you so that you, too, can get grounded and stay grounded when life twists and turns.
So much of feeling ungrounded comes from gripping the past or reaching for the future. While yoga as a whole is a grounding practice because it settles you into the present moment, there are plenty of other grounding practices that you can explore. Here are some that I have been drawn to lately:
- Spend time with family + friends - connect with those that keep you rooted.
- Eat a hearty meal - comfort foods exist for a reason. Of course, be mindful of what you're choosing, but a big bowl of pasta or soup can do wonders...
- Get out in nature - take a walk! Sit outside and enjoy the sunshine on your face or the wind in your hair. Get close to water if you can. Hug a damn tree.
- Pamper your feet - seriously. Give yourself a pedicure or go get one. Massage your feet. Pay attention to the part of you that spends most of the day connecting you with the earth.
- Stomp your feet - I know, it's getting weird. But really...try it.
- Get your hands dirty - literally, put your hands in soil. Garden!
- Clean the house - and be present for every task.
- Read a book - curl up with a good book and let yourself be engrossed.
- Sip a cup of tea - enjoy the ritual of making and sipping tea.
- Develop a morning and/or evening ritual - a cup of apple cider vinegar in the morning followed by journaling or self care practices, whatever floats your boat. Just get consistent about what you do in the AM or PM to create more steadiness throughout your day.
- Create something. Craft, cook, paint, draw, write. Manifesting ideas is a surefire way to get focused.
- Take a nap - SLEEP. MORE.
- Help someone in need - get out of your own small world and help a friend or stranger in need.
- Practice asana, pranayama + meditation aka YOGA - see below for a grounding practice**
**Disclaimer - these are practices that work for me, they may not work for you. Consult with your team of healers and doctors before beginning any new practices. For the sake of time and space, I have not elaborated so much on alignment. The understanding is that you have a current yoga practice. If you are new to yoga, come to class with me or with another real-life human that can offer you feedback and alignment principles to support a safe and sustainable practice.
First, we move so that you can get out of your head and into your body. The following steps outline movements that focus on grounding techniques: body connected with the earth or props, eyes settled on one gazing point (drishti) and breath long, slow and deep to tap into parasympathetic nervous system (rest + relex).
Come onto your hands and knees. Bring your big toes to touch and descend your hips back to your heels, landing in Child's Pose. Let your forehead connect with the earth, a block or even a pillow. Shift your attention from the external experience to the internal by paying attention to the rhythm of your breath. Get really curious about how the breath moves through your body and observe the patterns it makes without attaching any judgment to the data your collecting. Take as much time as you need to land more completely into the here and now.
2. WARM UPS + NAMASKARS
Shift forward onto hands and knees. Complete a few rounds of Cat/Cow to warm up the spine. Then, take a very gentle version of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) - deep bend in the knees, feet wider than hips distance. Explore the shape for a moment. When you're ready, head to the top of your mat. Rise to standing, close your eyes and focus on the connection of your feet to the earth beneath you. Complete 3-5 rounds of Surya Namaskar A and 3-5 rounds of Surya Namaksar B or the Classical Namaskar.
3. SUPPORTED ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA
After your body feels warm, come back to hands and knees and grab a block. Place the block on the highest setting about 6-8 inches behind the line of your wrists. Come into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and place the very top of your forehead on the block. If the back of your neck feels long (no wrinkles), this is the right spot for you. If not, shift the height of the block until you feel length through the back of your neck. Then, settle in to a restorative version of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) for about 2 min. Listen to your body and honor the need to come out sooner or to stay longer.
4. VIRABHADRASANA 2 WITH MUSHTI MUDRA
Step the one foot between your palms and spiral your back heel down at a 90 degree angle for Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2). As you set up, focus again on the connection of your feet to the earth. Lift and spread the toes, lift the arches, ground the heels and instead of pressing your feet apart like you could rip your mat in two, isometrically hug your heels in like you could roll your mat up. As you hug to the midline in the legs, do the same in the arms. A subtle hug of the shoulder blades towards one another and down the back followed by the settling of your gaze may create a grounding sensation. Optional - take Mushti Mudra (fists) to increase the sensation of grounding. Repeat on the other side.
5. ADHO MUKHA VRKSASANA (OR OTHER ACTIVE INVERSION)
If you have a current handstand, forearm balance or headstand practice, take a few moments to explore grounding in the hands. The focus required for active inversions can do wonders in cultivating an immediate sense of presence. I mean, how can you stand on your hands while your mind runs amuck? I know I can't...
6. REST + RESET
Rest after your active inversion practice with a few moments in Tadasana. Stand at the top of your mat, tap into the breath and let your body settle.
7. SUPPORTED SETU BANDHASANA
Come onto your back with a block in reach. Walk your feet back until you feel your heels land under your knees. With the feet hips width distance and inner thighs spiraling towards the earth, lift your hips and slide the block under your sacrum (approx the waistline area) at any height. If you have to lift your heels to get the block in, lower the height of the block. Rest your arms to your sides at a 45 degree angle, palms up. Take long, slow, deep breaths into the heart, allowing your chest to lift and stay lifted. Focus the eyes on the ceiling with a soft gaze or close them. Observe everything that is connected with the earth - the feet, the sacrum (to block), the arms, the shoulders, the base of the skull.
8. NEUTRALIZE THE SPINE
When you're ready, remove the block and lower your hips to the earth. Resist the urge to squeeze the knees into your chest and instead, walk your feet to the edges of the mat, turn your toes in and knock your knees in like a little knee tee-pee. Rest your hands on your belly and take a few breaths to neutralize the spine.
9. SUPPORTED PRONE TWIST
Rock to a seat and shift onto all fours. Grab a bolster or a few pillows. Feel free to use blocks underneath the soft prop you choose to create even more height. On hands and knees, walk your palms forward until they are about 3/4 of the way up the prop. Walk your knees to the left edge of your mat and descend your hips to the right edge of the mat so that your thighs are parallel with the bolster/pillow. Take a deep breath in and lengthen the spine. As you exhale, crawl your hands forward and lower your right ear to the bolster. Stay here or extend your legs to an 'L' like shape. Let your eyes shutter closed and tune into the breath. Enjoy the support of the earth and props beneath you. After 3-5 minutes, switch sides and repeat.
10. SUPPORTED BALASANA
Keep your bolster/pillow set up as is and from all fours, walk your knees about 1/3 of the way up your prop packet until your straddling the props. With the big toes touching, sink the hips to the heels. Then, keeping your booty low, walk your hands forward and descend your belly and chest onto the props. Bring your right ear to the bolster first, stay for a few minutes focused on the breath, then shift to the left ear to balance the stretch in the neck. If it's welcome in your body, let the eyes remain closed and your attention focus on the breath moving into the back body.
11. BELLY DOWN SAVASANA
This is my grounding, anti-anxiety go-to. Somedays, my practice consists of just this. After Supported Balasana, come onto hands and knees, stretch the legs long behind you and lower your whole front body down. The whole pelvis should land on the bolster. Scoot forward so that you can stack the palms up and lower the forehead down onto your mat keeping space for the nose and full deep breaths. Close your eyes and get really interested in the breath. So interested that your mind has no desire to go elsewhere. At some point, you may fall asleep. You may shift into the yoga bliss. And you may not. It's all good. No judgment. Take what comes and enjoy it.
BREATHE + BE
12. SEATED BREATHWORK + SIMPLE MEDITATION
Come into a comfortable and supported seat - cross legged on a block, bolster, blanket or pillow or seated on the shins with a block between the heels or a bolster/blanket behind the knees. Continue to focus on the breath.
Exhale completely and then begin Visamavritti (unequal breath): Inhale 3-6 seconds, Exhale 5-8 seconds. Work with a ratio that causes no strain and allow exhales to be 2 seconds longer than the inhale breath. If you are not pregnant or dealing with blood pressure issues and your doctor says it is okay, incorporate a slight kumbhaka or breath hold between inhale and exhale (2 seconds max).
After a 5-10 minutes of this breath, settle back into a natural rhythm of breath. For a simple mantra meditation repeat:
- INHALE | "I am right here"
- EXHALE | "I am settled"
Shift these short phrases to anything that stimulates a feeling of groundedness in your body. Sit, be and embrace the present moment for at least 5 minutes. You'll be surprised how quickly the time flies.
Getting grounded is an ongoing practice for me and most of that practice is listening. As you explore the practices above, notice how it affects you. If it works, keep it and use it. If it doesn't toss it out.
Getting grounded is not a priority for everyone, but it is for me. I value my roots. I know that when I am present and focused, I am productive and powerful. I am interested in slowing down and connecting more deeply with myself and others. I want to establish my roots like a hundred year old oak tree so that when the winds come (and they will) I'll bend a little and not break. And when the winds settle, I will too.
PS - big thanks to Yoga Six for lending me the space to snap photos.