Holidays can bring a slew of chaos, pressure and sometimes even suffering. Grounding practices have been a soothing remedy I have used to recover and come back into harmony with all that is. A grounded sense of being has given me both physical and mental stillness, allowing the space needed to observe, know and, therefore, control my mind. Without it, I've seen myself become a whirlwind of un-contained energy, lost in citta vritti and carried away in the stories of my own maya. Grounding brings me closer to Earth, keeps me coming back to the core of my inner-most nature and helps me attain the inner-peace needed to move through chaotic situations with grace.
There are many ways in which I love to practice the art of grounding. From earthing, to eating kapha foods, to quietly savoring a cup of warm herbal tea made from the roots of a plant. But let’s look at how we can refine the art of groundedness by developing a sadhana (daily practice) that incorporates the following five "limbs" of yoga.
(Find out how where these limbs fit into The Eight Limbs of Yoga in A Journey Through The 8 Limbs of Yoga.)
Yin yoga can help ground the body as the postures are practiced sitting or lying down close to the Earth, and contain slow mud-like (kapha) movements. Begin by focusing on Yin hip openers and holding each posture for a minimum of three minutes on each side. Taking enough time in one posture allows us to sit still without too much movement, deepen the expression, dive past layers of resistance and dig deep into our psyche. Let go of any thoughts and continuously come back to your body, giving your attention to breathing into and relaxing the muscles around the femur bone and hip sockets. Opening the hips releases stored emotions we may have built up from the holidays. Finish with making your way into lotus pose (padmasana), half lotus pose or easy pose, with your sit bones as close to the bare earth as possible.
Pranayama allows for our central nervous system to remain calm. Desa implies where you focus your breathing during pranayama. Where the mind goes, prana flows. If we let our desa be at the base of the spine (muladhara chakra), we can assure that our pranic body and nervous system will remain in a grounded state. Begin to visualize your breath making its way from your mouth, through the visuddha, anahata, manipura, svadhisthana and, finally, down to the muladhara chakra. Continue visualizing your breath moving downward to the mulandhara until you feel your body and sit bones melting into the earth and your breath flowing effortlessly.
Pratyahara refers to the withdrawing of the senses from their respective objects and back to our bodies -- the earthly material and grounded vessel in which our spirit resides. When withdrawing the senses during meditation, we draw our awareness away from external distractions of the mind (such as stressful situations). Practice pratyahara by sitting in padmasana until you feel nothing left other than your body and the core nature of your very own being.
Here is a basic grounding pratyahara practice from an excerpt of "Letters From the Yoga Masters" by Marion Mugs McConnell:
"Negate the entire phenomenal Universe, including this Earth. When you reach the state where you are only aware of the body, then commence this process of withdrawal. Closing your eyes first, direct your entire mind upon the two big toes. Concentrate there. Then gradually draw up the mind from the region of the toes to the next point, the ankles. Now concentrate here. Than withdraw yourself to the next point, middle of the shanks. Concentrate here. Next withdraw into the fourth part, and so on. [all the way to the crown and repeat]."
(Dig deeper into this limb with Pratyahara: The Fifth Limb of Yoga.)
Dharana is concentration. Concentration is to put your attention onto an external object such as a photo of a guru, a flower in nature or on an internal space. In this context, we can apply dharana to bring focus onto the intention of grounding. We can begin to focus on grounding through visualizations of the muladhara. While continuing in padmasana, visualize roots growing from your sit bones to the center of the earth -- past all of the rich soil, past layers of crystals and minerals to the deep center where all of the molten lava resides. Let your mind stay here. Feel a heaviness in your root. Feel the warmth the earth provides. Feel yourself, still, un-moving and grounded in your being.
Dhyana (meditation) is the ultimate expression of a grounded spirit. Sitting, with nothing on our mind, as still as a tree. After you have practiced asana, pranayma, pratyahara and dharana, your mind should be well ready for meditation. Let this meditation be very simple. Let go of the visualizations and breath work previously practiced and return to a place of ease and nothingness. Enjoy being fully in your body and connected to Mother Earth.
Year-Round Inner Peace
With all of the chaos in the world, it is easy for us to lose ourselves, but let’s remember that grounding can be done simply. All it takes is a little willpower to sit down with intention and you will reap the benefits of lasting inner peace.
(If you're feeling discouraged, though, learn Why It's So Hard to Achieve Inner Peace.)