Despite the oft-emphasized upscale, aspirational, ascendant aspects of yogic practice, yoga is an omnidirectional affair, and one essential direction is down—as in Downward Dog, down-to-earth, calm down, settle down, get down, feet-firmly-planted-on-terra-firma, rooting-ourselves-in-the-Ground-of-Being DOWN. Feeling grounded—stable, balanced, and present in ourselves and our lives—is essential to our well-being. Just as electrical systems need to be grounded in order to conduct energy safely, human beings need the felt connection to our bodies and the earth in order to function optimally.
Unlike in childhood when being grounded is often experienced as an unwelcome punishment, being grounded in adulthood is a gift that keeps us in touch with reality. It is a way of fully embracing and embodying the visceral experience of being human now here on earth. When grounded, we are able to respond to the vicissitudes of our experience without getting swept away or losing our ground.
In yoga, particularly the more meditative aspects of practice, it is not uncommon to experience heightened awareness, altered or peak states, and expansive shifts in our personal energy fields. The full spectrum of human experience becomes more available to our awareness as we explore various ways of being in our bodies and with ourselves. This can be both ecstatic and disorienting.
In the absence of groundedness, we may feel scattered, fidgety, out-of-sorts, out-of-touch, or off-balance. On the more pleasant end of the spectrum and very common during spiritual awakening(s), a lack of groundedness can also take the form of feeling floaty, spacey, out-of-body, or blissed-out. However, chronic ecstasy, though more enjoyable, without proper grounding can be just as destabilizing and debilitating as chronic illness, stress, or exhaustion.
Whatever it feels like, when we are ungrounded, we are more prone to mishaps, mistakes, and maladies. Thus, as our experience of ourselves expands, it is important to balance the breadth of our experience with depth. Like trees, the broader the branches above, the deeper the roots below necessary to sustain growth without uprooting.
One easy way to ground ourselves is to draw our attention to our feet on the ground. When we attend to the ground beneath us, we feel supported by the earth. The earth's gravitational pull becomes a stabilizing force, grounding scattered or excessively upward energy. We feel more integrated internally, and able to sense and feel ourselves whole, head connected to heart connected to solar plexus, and so on. Likewise, we feel more connected to our immediate surroundings and the earth.
For most of us, feeling grounding is very comforting, and may be accompanied by various sensations like greater warmth, flow, or vibrancy—even increased libido. Some people experience perceptual shifts in terms of height and weight, feeling taller or shorter or more solid and substantial.
Others, especially those who may be habitually a bit disconnected from their felt experience, may find grounding oddly unsettling at first as they begin to feel previously unfelt experience, such as physical aches or emotional insecurities. If you happen to be one such person, rest assured that this initial discomfort dissipates quickly with practice.
When we consciously let the earth carry our weight and the weight of the world, we create a supportive container to release and rebalance anything—habitual patterns, positive and negative—that gets in the way of feeling fully present in our bodies as we are here on earth. In so doing, we free ourselves to reconnect with the Ground of Being that paradoxically lifts us up, lightens, and enlightens whenever we embrace it wholly.
Here are a few simple ways to practice grounding.
Stand Your Ground
Stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and notice the ground beneath you. Sink into its support and let it carry the weight of your experience.
Feel how the ground meets the your feet.
Notice where your weight rests...one side or the other, forward or backward, outer or inner edges. Distribute your weight evenly between your two feet. Hug the earth with your toes.
Now, distribute the weight in each foot evenly across the centers of your heels, and the fleshy bottoms of your big and little toes. Notice as you do this, how the middle arches lift up to meet the base of your pelvis and spine, and how the muscles in your legs support this subtle lift.
Notice how engaging the soles of your feet moves through your inner thighs to your groin lifting your pelvic floor (that network of muscles rooted at the perineum amidst your sit bones, pubic bone, and tailbone used in Mula Bandha or Root Lock) at the seat of your root chakra or subtle energy center at the base of your spine, Muladhara.
Enjoy the feeling of grounding.
Stand in Tree Pose (Vrksasana). Imagine yourself as a tree, and plant yourself in the ground.
Imagine the root of your spine extending down through the sole of you foot into the center of the earth as you feel the light inward and upward contraction of your pelvic floor.
Notice how you feel as you connect into the ground. Notice how the earth supports you.
Although perhaps more easily accessed standing, you can ground yourself in any pose on or off the mat by bringing your attention to your feet or wherever your body makes contact with the ground.
Enjoy the feeling of grounding.
Walk the Earth
Walking barefoot is another simple, but effective way to experience groundedness. It probably comes as no surprise to yoga practitioners that recent research suggests that Earthing, or walking barefoot on natural ground (soil, grass, or sand):
Early studies are showing that the health benefits come from the relationship between our bodies and the electrons in the earth. The planet has its own natural charge, and we seem to do better when we’re in direct contact with it."
Dr. Isaac Eliaz, The Surprising Benefits of Walking Barefoot, MindBodyGreen
Instead of hitting the ground running, try kissing the ground walking. As you walk, notice how the ground greets your feet and supports your every step. Let go of that which no longer serves you on your path.
Of course, there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Gardening, drumming, and dancing are also good practices for grounding. Perhaps you know of others.
Whatever you do, what's most essential is that you find a way to ground yourself and connect to the greater Ground of Being.
As usual, please feel free to comment and share as inspired. I love learning with you.
Art Credit Image 1: Root Chakra, Catherine McElroy
Art Credit Image 2: unknown
Art Credit Image 3: Kuvia Maltada