If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’re probably familiar with the word grounding. But what does it really mean? It’s one of those esoteric terms that’s used so readily by yoga teachers that we sometimes neglect to consider its significance. In yoga, the word serves as both an adjective (describing a centered, grounded feeling) and a verb (to physically ground down).
Physical grounding is about finding a solid connection with the earth through bringing awareness into your body. You must take the time to notice how your feet and hands feel making contact with the floor so that you can build a strong foundation for asana, for example.
Grounding is about achieving equanimity by redirecting energy downward, which can feel strange or even backward at first. We are conditioned from a young age to aspire toward up-ness (“Grow up!” or “Wake up!”). Learning to come back down to the earth pulls us into our physical experience of the here and now.
Feeling grounded is essential, not just physically but psychologically. Most of us spend too much time in our heads (or on our phones!) thinking, planning, and worrying. This results in a lot of energy being focused upward into the mind, which causes an imbalance that makes us feel scattered or overwhelmed. Psychological grounding means occupying the present moment with a sense of calm despite any chaos or noise swirling around you. It will help you return to the ‘big picture’ through connecting with something larger than yourself.
Life is all about balance. The act of grounding reestablishes our connection to the earth so that we feel supported. It encourages us to let go of burdensome thoughts and fully inhabit our bodies. In short, grounding is about being rather than thinking.
Below are a few simple poses that will help you to quiet your mind and learn to live in the present.
Lowering your head beneath your heart signals to the nervous system that it’s time to slow down and relax, making Child’s Pose a very restorative posture. To get there, spread your knees out as wide as is comfortable and pull your big toes together to touch. Guide your hips over your heels, then slowly walk your palms forward. Gently rest your forehead on the floor.
Balancing poses like Tree are great for encouraging focus and breath control to achieve stability. Begin by shifting weight onto your left foot. Next, bring the sole of your right foot to the inseam of your left leg and place it on either your calf or thigh. Once you’re standing tall with your shoulders, hips, and knees aligned, draw your hands to heart center and press your palms together. Breathe.
We tend to store a lot of emotion in our hips. Pigeon Pose lengthens the hip flexors, releasing stagnant energy. Come onto all fours with your hands shoulder-distance apart. Guide your right knee forward and place it on the floor just behind your right wrist. Extend your left leg straight behind you. Walk your palms back in line with your hips, puff up your chest—like a pigeon!—then fold your torso over your thigh, bringing your forearms to the floor and resting your forehead on a block (or cushion).
This gentle backbend works to improve posture by strengthening the muscles on the backline of the body. It also acts as a heart opener. Lie down on your back, arms at your sides, palms facing down. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip-distance apart. Next, walk your heels back toward your glutes until your knees are directly over your ankles. Lift your hips and chest up as you press your arms down.
You can modify this pose by placing a block, cushion, or rolled up blanket beneath your sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) for support.
The best part of any yoga class! Savasana — otherwise known as Corpse Pose — promotes deep relaxation. Simply lie on your back and allow yourself a moment (or several) to find comfort in your body.