What 'Getting Grounded' Means
Outside of yoga classes, when someone is described as “grounded” it usually means that they’re sensible and well-balanced. To be grounded is to be in touch with reality and not to get “carried away.” I’ll be honest, growing up, being grounded wasn’t something I aspired to.
I wanted to be free, to run, to explore, to imagine and to play. As time has gone on, though, I’ve found that my desire to be continually moving, on the go and rushing can become a mindset as much as a physical state. Left unchecked, I find myself more and more “in my head,” my whirling mind always jumping to think about the next thing, planning, worrying, anticipating. The danger here is that you lose that childlike connection to the wonder of the physical world, the very thing that inspired the desire to move and explore in the first place.
Through yoga, I began to open myself up to the idea of getting grounded. Instead of seeing it as undesirably dull and sensible, when I learned to ground myself, I connected to the earth, to the present moment and to the visceral experience of being in the world and in my body. Many people like me grow used to living in their heads. We find ourselves quite literally lost in thought, and we neglect our sense of presence and our connection with the here and now.
(Speaking of the earth, here's how you can Get Grounded Through 'Earthing.')
When we ground ourselves, either on the yoga mat or in our daily lives, we connect with the reality of the present moment. We let go of the stories and the narratives about what might be happening, what has happened and what could happen. We drop into experiencing what is. We feel stronger, more balanced and more connected with the earth and ourselves. Through grounding, we feel secure and present, and we establish our right to be here. To be grounded cultivates physical and mental stability and balance.
How to 'Get Grounded'
Grounding can be practiced in any yoga or meditation posture. With my students, I’ve found a good place to start is in tadasana (mountain pose). By its very nature, it is a posture of stability, stillness and presence. Conveniently, it is also very close to the standing posture we spend so much time in off the mat, so practicing grounding here will be easily transferable to the rest of our lives.
Through the Feet
Stand tall with your feet together, big toes touching. Lift, spread and lay the toes back down. Firmly establish a strong connection between the ground and all four corners of the feet. Distribute your weight evenly between these four points and gently lift the inner arches of the feet. Visualize roots growing from the balls and heels of the feet down into the earth, grounding and connecting you here.
Through the Root Lock
From the firm foundation of your feet, draw the energy up through the inner line of the legs and engage in mula bandha (root lock). This is where you subtly contract the muscles between the tailbone and the pubic bone, lifting the perineum. The root lock naturally engages your core to build stability. It also helps you to draw the connection you have created between your feet and the ground up into your body.
Through the Crown
Somewhat paradoxically, the final aspect of being grounded is to experience a sense of being lifted, even while you are rooted to the earth. Elongate the spine, drawing energy up from the tailbone through the length of the spine to the crown of the head. Visualize a string connected to the crown of your head pulling you up to the sky. Feel the way that this pull perfectly and effortlessly balances the forces connecting you to the ground, allowing you to feel simultaneously rooted yet lifted.
Through Balance and Presence
Being grounded is about cultivating balance and presence, not about feeling heavy or stuck. To be grounded is to establish a firm foundation from which to grow.
Cultivating a sense of grounding can help us to develop all of our yoga asanas. When we ground ourselves, we feel stable and balanced, whatever parts of our bodies remain in contact with the mat. For example, practicing principles of grounding with your forearms or hands in exactly the same way as you did with your feet can help you to develop a strong inversion practice. You can also work on grounding in postures such as Virabhadrasana B (warrior two pose), maximizing the feeling of solidity and rooted-ness that the posture naturally encourages.
(Here's more on Cultivating Power in Your Practice With Warrior Two Pose.)
Get More Mindful, Too
Grounding can also help you as a mindfulness practice in your life, particularly if, like me, you’re inclined toward anxiety. Any time you are feeling overwhelmed, or caught up in worries, pause for a moment. Take the time to check in with the parts of you that are connected with the ground. Breathe into those connections, deliberately strengthening them, and feel the permanence of this rooting and stability. Whatever happens, the earth is still there and you are still grounded on it.
Concerned that being grounded will mean you lose your sense of spirit, lightness or creativity? I take comfort in the words of author J.R. Rim: “Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly.”