Getting Grounded: Reconnect to your inner stability
Downward Facing Dog is a super efficient way to fully inhabit your body
Life is perpetually chaotic. In each moment everything we can see, touch, hear, smell and taste is in the process of changing. That has always been true, but in the age of technology that we now live, things seem to change at lightning speed. And as we become more adapted to the pace of technology we are less connected to the rhythms of nature. As a result, the natural rhythms of our bodies become skewed and we often end up with problems like insomnia, anxiety and fatigue.
I live in New York City, a perpetual hub of frenetic energy. Even as a yoga teacher I can easily get swept in the frenzy and find myself feeling quite ungrounded if I do not incorporate poses and practices into my own yoga sessions that promote grounding. When I have the sense that things are out of order, when I am trying to do too many things at once and having trouble deciding on anything, I am becoming ungrounded. I may feel tired, but with a faint buzzing anxiety underneath that makes it difficult to relax and rest. When this happens I know it is time to stop and reconnect to my own inner stability.
Because we have become accustomed to living rather chaotic lives, even when there is a natural ebb to the chaos, we feel that something must be wrong, that we are not doing enough. So rather than taking the opportunity that has been provided to settle down a little, we go looking for something to fill that space By doing this we end up feeling more anxious, overwhelmed and eventually depressed. We forget about nature, which offers us countless opportunities for grounding. We even loose touch with our own bodies and forget to breathe!
The ideal antidote would be to go sit in the middle of the forest and run our hands through the soil, listen to the birds chirp and feel the sun on our faces. But most of us, especially city dwellers, cannot do that as often as we would like, so I have created this very simple combination of yoga postures and deep breathing, which you can do pretty much anywhere to reconnect to your own inner stability. It takes only 5-10 minutes and provides a quick, nourishing way to get grounded.
You can do these poses with or without a yoga mat. If you don’t have a mat, consider wearing your shoes for downward facing dog in order to create traction.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
This pose has many wonderful benefits for our overall postural health and it is essential in helping us get grounded.
- Stand with your feet together, toes pointing straight forward and arms by your sides.
- Draw your kneecaps up, but not back.
- Draw your inner thighs back as you draw your tailbone straight down.
- Lift your abdominal muscles gently in and up.
- Lengthen your spine, lifting up all the way through the crown of your head (not the forehead).
- Broaden your collarbones and reach your fingertips down towards the floor.
- Close your eyes and feel down into your feet.
- Feel the sensation of your feet connecting to the ground underneath you.
- Imagine sending your breath all the way down into your feet to grow energetic roots connecting you more fully to the Earth.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This one posture stretches and strengthens your shoulders, neck, back, hamstrings, calves and ankles. Downward dog provides an inversion that tractions the spine and sends fresh blood to the brain. It is a super efficient way to fully inhabit your body. And because your feet and your hands are pressing into the earth while your arms and legs work together, it provides a wonderful sense of grounding. When you get stronger and more comfortable in the pose you can stay here for a long time and discover a deeply meditative quality.
- From Mountain Pose fold over your legs, bend your knees and plant your hands on the floor either side of your feet.
- Walk your feet back between 4 and 5 feet from your hands and place your feet hip distance apart.
- Shift your shoulders over your wrists as you would for a push up and if you didn’t move your feet forward or back to come into this shape then your feet are the correct distance from your hands for downward dog.
- Shift back to downward dog without moving your hands or feet. Just pull your hips back and up.
- Reach your heels back and down towards the floor straight behind your ankles.
- Spread your toes and fingers wide apart.
- Fully straighten your arms. Your knees can stay bent if your hamstrings feel tight.
- Allow your head to drop, but keep your upper arms working to support your shoulders.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 slow deep breaths. If you can hold longer close your eyes and send the breath from your feet, through your body to your hands and from your hands back to your feet again, creating a unifying effect for your entire body.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This pose is the quintessential Earth connector. As most of your front body is resting on the earth, while you are also drawing inward, there is a deep sense of stability and nurturance that arises.
- From Downward dog, bend your knees and bring them to the floor. If you have a knee problem place a hand towel at the back of the knee before you bend it to create space in the joint. If you gave hip trouble you can do the same at the front hip crease before you fold over.
- Draw your hips back to your heels and rest your forehead on the floor. If your forehead does not touch the floor place a block or blanket underneath it to support the head without compressing the neck.
- Keep your arms extended forward for the first 5-10 breaths, drawing Earth energy up into your hands and sending it through your body.
- Then let the arms rest by your sides for more of a cocoon effect.
- You can stay here as long as your knees and feet comfortable, absorbing Earth Energy, allowing yourself to be fully nurtured.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Badha Konasana)
This pose is a favorite of mom’s to be. It seems to be a natural instinct for them to rest in this position to ground and nurture themselves and the baby growing inside. Anyone can benefit from the hip opening that facilitates deep breathing and has a calming effect on the nervous system.
- From child’s pose press up to your hands and knees and swing the legs around in front of you so you can gently come down onto your back. If you feel uncomfortable lying flat on your back, place a sturdy folded blanket or a bolster lengthwise under your spine and head.
- Bend your knees bringing your feet close to your sitting bones and then open your knees out to the sides bringing the bottoms of your feet together. This places the legs in a diamond shape. If your hips or knees hurt, place blocks or blankets under the outer knees.
- Once you are in the pose, bring your attention to your breathing. Feel the belly, ribs and chest expand as you inhale and feel them deflate as you exhale. Do this several times.
- Then imagine drawing breath energy in and down with each breath. In and down, anchoring your awareness to the pelvic area, which is most connecting to Earth energy.
- Imagine your own pelvis and legs like a patch of fertile soil and the breath as the nutrients you draw into the soil. Allow your own body to be the ground in which you plant your positive intentions and allow them to grown and manifest in your life.
About the author
Elizabeth has been teaching yoga and meditation for ten years. She lives in New York where she teaches both private and group yoga classes. Elizabeth leads workshops, retreats and yoga teacher trainings, as well as providing mentorship to newer teachers. She is a freelance writer and lover of all things related to wellness and spirituality. Learn more by visiting her website at www.ejneuse.com.
New Year’s Retreat 2012
With Elizabeth Neuse
Dec 28, 2011-Jan 4, 2012
Villa Sumaya, Lake Atilian, Guatemala
Join me for a profoundly transformative retreat to welcome the New Year. This year of 2012 as the Mayan’s, the original inhabitants of Central America, saw it, will be a year of intense transformation. Their spirit will be with us as we explore the hidden blockages and wounds within our chakra systems that keep us bound to habitual patterns, addictive behaviors, pain or even illness.
By working with each chakra through yoga postures, pranayama, visualization, meditation and more we will heal these wounds and release these blockages so that we may fully experience the true freedom that is available to us.
Each day of this seven-day retreat we will explore the individual chakras, the related aspects of body, mind and spirit. We will look at how certain mental behaviors and physical disharmonies manifest in these centers and we will practice in a way to release them to create new, more beneficial and ultimately freeing patterns.