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Have you ever heard a yoga teacher talk about grounding? Grounding just means feeling and establishing your connection to the ground or the earth. The best explanation I ever heard for feeling “ungrounded” is when you are feeling so stressed or overwhelmed that it feels like something like a gust of wind could literally knock you over. This is a common feeling when, as a mom, you are being pulled, literally or figuratively, in a million directions. When we are ungrounded it feels like it is hard to get anything done and hard to meet anyone’s needs, including our own.
Grounding can help us feel less overwhelmed and more in our body. While this is a term that yogis and others like to throw around a great deal, how exactly DOES one practice grounding? Here are some of my favorite ways to feel more grounded.
Walk barefoot. Ideally Outside. The most direct way to feel more connected to the ground is to actually connect with the ground. You can do this by walking barefoot and really paying attention to the feet on the ground, feeling all the sensations of the earth (whether it is the grass, a yoga mat or a carpet) against your feet. Recently I let my toddler run around outside without shoes on, and I realized it was his first time being barefoot and walking outside. The minute his feet hit the cool, wet grass he burst into a loud giggle and immediately began tearing around. This is no surprise; feet are full of nerve endings. This means stronger sensations, and can be helpful if you are trying to practice mindfulness, as when we bring our attention to our feet it is easier to hold it there then in less sensitive places. Unfortunately we often don’t take time to notice these sensations, and walking with shoes on limits that ability. The good news is, it is spring, the perfect time to take off your shoes and walk around, in your backyard or a local park. If you don’t have anywhere you can walk around outside, a cleared floor space works just as well.
Practice some grounding Yoga poses- Some yogic poses are particularly grounding, especially standing poses, which give you another opportunity to feel your feet in the ground. My favorite is chair pose, where we not only use our feet to firmly ground us in place but we also send our hips back to the earth, while lifting up, something that would be difficult to do if we don’t focus on being grounded. Additionally, holding a pose like chair for a longer period of time requires a great deal of energy, which can draw the mind away from rumination and offer the nervous system an opportunity to relax.
Breath from the Ground Up. Another wonderful way to practice grounding is to practice Breathing from the Ground up, a technique I first learned during my Yoga Therapy Training with the Minded Institute, and that I now can’t imagine how I ever lived without. I’ve recorded a short version here. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xt1GUeZG1AkozWeUIPYCg1YpiMtr9WOf/view?usp=sharing
If you are feeling ungrounded please take a few moments to ground yourself today. Just 5 minutes with any of these practices can help you feel more connected to the earth and less likely to blow away or be pulled apart.
March is usually a time of change. The days get longer. Spring seems to be in the foreseeable future. As we near the end of winter (at least I hope here in Brussels) I know I am not alone in feeling a bit stir crazy, eager to move, yet at the same time, frustrated by the horrible weather, lacking motivation to get off my couch and onto my yoga mat. This is, in my opinion, a great time to try something new in your yoga practice. This can me different things for different people, here are few of my Moody March suggestions.
Try a different style of yoga. This is one of the most straightforward ways to inject change into your yoga practices, it is something I've been doing myself. My typical practice tends to be Hatha based but I've recently started trying out some Kundalini practices. The chanting, rapid movements and focus on energy movement has kept me eager to return my mat. Adding Kundalini practice highlighted how tentative I had been to step away from my postnatal practice, since I’ve begun I’ve become more confident in safely expanding my physical practice. You may discover something similar, or perhaps the reverse, that you’ve been pushing yourself too hard physically, and what you actually need is space to breath and relax.
Expand your Yoga Practice- Asana the physical yoga poses, is only one of what is known as the 8-limbs of Yoga. There are many amazing non-physical ways to expand your yoga practice, as they gain popularity they have become more popular here in Brussels. Some things you can try include:
- Seated meditation. Many yoga studios offer a weekly seated meditation practice. These offerings are often low-cost or donation based. You can also look into a local meditation center, in Brussels we are lucky to have a Shambala Center which offers weekly “learn to meditate” sessions. As they are part of an international Shambalha Community such centers exist throughout the world.
- Gong Meditation/Bath This is a recent discovery for me, and a really great one. Gong Meditation, or sound bath, is a process of using gong sound waves as a therapeutic way to massage and heal the body and mind. Those that know me know I tend to view such Whoo-whoo offerings with a grain of salt, but after my first 2 hours of truly profound experience I am convinced of the power of the gong. Sessions can be done individually or in a group. In Brussels you can find an amazing experience with The Jewel Within Yoga.
- Commit to your practice It is often easier to get out of the house and onto your mat if you’ve made a commitment to do so. There are many ways to do this. You can purchase an “unlimited” class pass to your local studio, giving you access to as many classes as you like for a certain amount of time. Or make plans to attend with a friend, even if your motivation declines you can’t let them down. You can also look into committing to a series of classes that help deepen your practice. My 8-Week Yoga Therapy Course for Stress, Anxiety and Depression provides a way to commit to your practice while learning ways to find balance in body and mind.
I hope you find some inspiration to evolve your practice today. If you are interested in the 8-week course or any of the other practices mentioned here please get in touch today.
Continue your yoga practice off the mat this year.
A regular yoga practice has have amazing physical and mental benefits, including improving our response to stress and reducing anxiety. Most of us feel really great after a yoga practice or meditation practice, that is why we keep doing it. Yoga is more than a physical practice and includes theory and philosophy on all aspects of life. Incorporating some of these into your day to day life can help improve mindfulness and keep that good feeling going all day.The more you practice the more regular and long-term it will become, but there are other ways you can live more yogicaly, and mindfully, in your day to day life. Here are 4-ways I like to like to continue my yoga practice off the mat.
1) Detach from your phone
As a yoga teacher who is supposed to expound healthy living I have a dirty little secret. No, I don’t smoke cigarettes or hunt endangered animals. But I am addicted to my phone. I don’t use the term “addiction” lightly, I do think it is a real problem. A problem I am tacking. The easiest and best thing I’ve done so far is to take my phone out of my room! I got into the nasty habit during sleepless pregnancy and new baby nights of checking my phone every time I woke up, which was a great many times. And before bed. And when I woke up for the day. And before I took a nap. You get the point. The worst was waking up, when I realized I would be physically craving my phone as I breastfed my son. I realized I needed a change. About a month ago my husband and I stopped charging our phones in our room, leaving them downstairs in the evening. The change has been amazing! Within a few days I was journaling again, instead of one final Facebook pose I “post” to myself in the evening. The mornings are filled with baby giggles instead of reading whatever grim news happened overnight. I've even noticed my overall anxiety level lower throughout the day. There is still room for improvement (read on) but this had certainly created more mindful mornings and bedtimes, which has meant for better sleep and less early morning anxiety.
2) Check in with the breath.
Breathing, we all do it. Most of us don’t do it well. Without getting too much into the physiology, many of us are breathing using the wrong muscles, essentially using our shoulder/torso instead of our diaphragm. This can be detrimental for a number of reasons, including making it more difficult to take in adequate amounts of oxygen, which can ignite the body’s stress response and affecting the posture, leading to pain in the shoulders and low back (which can also ignite the stress response). This can be a chronic problem but for many people it is easy to make some improvements. As a yoga therapist what I most commonly see people doing is breathing into their chests instead of their belly and breathing very fast. While there are a number of exercise I do with clients to improve there breathing for a “quick fix” I suggest working on belly breathing. If you notice you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed this is a great time to check in with your breath. Put your hands on your belly and see if they move away from you on your inhale, and back towards you on your exhale. Take a few breaths this way, slowing down the breath as you do.
Truly changing the way you breathe takes time and practice but noticing when and how you breathe and improving it when you can is a great first step to a more yogic year.
3) Pick a mindful moment.
My favorite thing from the Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class I took in 2015 was the “mindful activities”. We were told to choose an activity we do each day and devote our time to being mindful during it. I chose the shower, because I LOVE showering and it seemed like a good idea to start with a task I enjoy doing. All this means is really paying attention to everything, the smell of the soap, the feel of the water, etc. I’ve continued trying to do this regularly years after the class ended. It served me particularly well in my postnatal period when my thrice-weekly shower was often the only “me time” I would get, Being mindful of it really allowed me to take it all in, ensuring I could really enjoy the break. It is also a great time to check in on where the mind is going. Sometimes it is “easier” to be mindful while other times my mind has drifted away before I’ve even turned the water on. This is a great opportunity for me to really notice how I am feeling, whether it is calm, anxious, sad etc. I do this without judgment. I enjoy this practice in the shower because it includes a mind body component (a yoga bonus) but other ideas include brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
4) Check in with your day (journaling).
I’ve gotten back the journaling. I’ve always wanted to be a journaler, I have about 10 journals with a page or 2 written in, soon abandoned. But this time it seems to be sticking. Aside from the lack of screen time (noted about) I think the other secret to my current journal success is that I’ve become very curious about how I am doing. I view my journaling as another opportunity to check in with myself. What am I still holding on to from the day? What have I let go of? Why? It only takes a few minutes but I find it is now one of my favorite parts of the day.
I hope you have an opportunity to use some of these tips. If you do, or if you have other great ideas for how we can all live a bit more yoga please pop over to my facebook page and share them there.