The term ‘grounding’ is often used in yoga classes and in relation to any activity that helps to draw us into a sense of the present moment.
But what does grounding actually mean? What qualities and physical attributes make grounding as important part of our practice?
To not be grounded in life at any moment is to feel that we’re not really there. That includes a full physical sense that we are somehow off and away, that we are off in our heads, even “away with the fairies”!
This removal from a sense of where we are at that moment, can even move into feelings of dissociation where can experience a complete disconnect from mind and body.
This state has been associated with the ‘out of body’ experiences sometimes viewed as a spiritual high, but often has its roots in trauma.
In yoga, opening into the higher echelons relies on solid roots; fostering grounding through the lower chakras (pelvis and belly) to meet the subtleties of the higher chakras up into the head.
Grounding is really feeling where we are on a whole physical level in the here and now, in this present moment.
So, it’s a very sensory thing, a very sensory feeling in quality. It involves having a clear internal sense – interoception of the shape and size and ratio of our physical being just as it is right now.
So for instance, if we lay down in savasana or at the beginning of a class to simply arrive, we might feel that our body feels larger or smaller in places. Maybe our feet feel very big or very small or that we can barely feel them.
Cultivating a sense of grounding means fully engaging in the present moment, where we are placed on the earth, right now.
We can foster this through the senses and the breath, even moving our hands and feet and rolling our head’s full weight on the ground to truly feel that we are here, we exist.
Grounding is a sense of where we are in relation to the world around us so that we can clarify that we are not lost elsewhere – therefore it has the potential to offer a true sense of safety. It’s not possible to feel fully grounded when we are stressed, overwhelmed and highly reactive.
It is possible to feel grounded when we are excited or having to respond quickly to something, if we have cultivated a sense of embodied awareness or if we don’t tend to flood or panic when we come into the stress response.
When we are not feeling fully connected with our body and grounding is that connection, our physical yoga practice is a great route back. The definition of the word yoga as ‘union’ can mean attunement between our sense of self and the larger world around us.
So, when we move into stronger and standing postures, a sense of grounding is really key for how we move through the space around us, how we sense our body in relation to the world around us. This is proprioception or sense of self and how we get from one place to another.
Good grounding creates movement with a sense of grace and integration. In standing postures, lifting up from the floor is defined by sensory input up from the feet, up through the inner legs, up through the pelvic floor, the spine, up through into the throat in the top of palate and top of the head.
All that connection and feeling up from the ground in standing and moving through standing postures really makes the difference between whether we are fully embodied and we may remain with a practice that is aware and conscious or whether we are simply flailing around, even feeling quite heady and moving in a bit of a dream state or without coordination.
Spending time feeling your feet on the ground (from a stable feet hip-width apart) and changes as you shift weight forward and back, side-to-side and in circles creates good foundations from which to grow, not just in our practice, but how we walk and move through life.
Within yoga, it is the quality of attention that can really determine whether it is helping us to ground in life or whether it’s something that feeds into any tendencies to dissociate, to disconnect from life itself.
Spending time connecting with each breath, feeling each part of our body, where it is in space right now, even palpably feeling it with our hands, if that feels it’s not easily accessible is at the heart of our practice feeding up intelligently into our lives.
After a physical practice, feeling grounding, centred and calmly present are the positive ripples we can take into life.
Feeling buzzy, heady or excited can mean we’ve not spent enough time in grounding savasana, where we allow things to settle, assimilate and gather back in to our sense of self. Yoga is connection and exploring beyond the physical starts in the here and now.