Do you find yoga helps you feel more connected to life? Here are 14 tools to enhance that feeling, beat overwhelm and get maximum benefit from your class. Our inspirational yoga teacher, Lucy McCarthy, writes…
Yoga and yogis have often been dismissed sceptically as hippy-dippy, wafty and disconnected from the ‘real’ world.
I think in part this is due to a tendency in the yoga world for a lack of grounding and globally to a phenomenon of the mind being our place of predominant preoccupation.
But I also believe we can shed some light on this by looking back at the history of yoga.
Living in the World? Or Away from it?
Ancient classical yoga is a path of renunciation, a path for the ascetic leading to ultimately moving away from the world, rather than living within it. It was a path of liberation and to the traditional yogi that meant moving away from the gross material world and leading towards the more subtle realms of higher consciousness.
For your average yogi living in times gone by, this would have meant living as a renunciate – eschewing having belongings, a spouse and children and often not even having a fixed abode.
Many would remove themselves from the material civilised world taking themselves off to remote isolated places such as the Himalayas to facilitate their search for enlightenment.
Towards the Light
Even the word enlightenment guides us towards a sense of lightness. The opposite of grounding. This was the traditional path of yogic liberation- to literally get high.
To live simply, without the weight and burden of a householder’s life, eating clean and practicing yogic postures and breath work in order to purify their mind and body to enable them to transcend the gross material world and rather access higher states of consciousness.
This requires an ability of refined awareness enabling great subtle planes and states of altered consciousness to be experienced. For these yogis ‘grounding’ and being ‘earthed’ was not something they sought out as these qualities tethered them to the material world they were looking to transcend.
Back to the Present
However nowadays, you and I and most modern day yogic practitioners are unlikely to be wishing to become an ascetic or renunciate. Most of us do not feel the call to remove ourselves from the world and go and live in an isolated place in order to access enlightenment.
So for those of us for whom that is not the case, ‘householders’ as we would be called, people who maintain a working and familial life in the world, whilst simultaneously having a spiritual practice; the art of grounding is profoundly necessary in order for us to achieve this fine balance.
‘Householders’- those living in the world whilst cultivating a spiritual path too – are much more common in the Buddhist and Tantric traditions than they are in classical yogic traditions.
However most modern day yogis are indeed householders rather than renunciates. Therefore, as householders, if we simply aspire to go up and away from the material world, we end up in a deep state of disconnection where we are living in the world but are deeply ungrounded, unsettled and in some cases downright unstable.
So for those of us wishing to have a spiritual practice and live in the world connecting to earth and being grounded is of deep importance. Otherwise we will find ourselves untethered and anchored and all at sea in this modern fast paced material world.
Being ungrounded has lots of implications for our lives. On the one hand, if we are ungrounded emotionally this can lead to great difficulties in all of our relationships, including our relationship with self; on the other hand if we are ungrounded mentally, this can manifest as an inability to concentrate and stay focused, that is likely affecting our ability to do a job well.
Not to mention if we are ungrounded physically our yoga asana practice is much more likely to result in injury and imbalance in our bodies. Think of the leaning tower of Pisa. Dodgy foundation leads to a toppling tower!
In my own experience, like many other yogis drawn to yoga, I in the beginning was naturally ungrounded and flighty often finding myself overwhelmed by life.
Yoga, in particular the breath and asana aspects have helped me slow down, connect to earth and steadily find more balance in my life. I now find myself less easily knocked off balance or unanchored when life’s seas get rough.
So how do we get grounded? What are the best ways to connect to earth?
Below are a list of tools that have taught me to ground and get earthed.
1. Be in Nature as much and as often as you can.
2. Regularly stand or walk barefoot on the earth. This is my go to favourite.
3. Connect to your feet! Take your shoes off whenever you can. Spread your toes. Massage your feet. Roll your feet out over a massage or tennis ball.
4. Practice yoga asana with your awareness focussed always on the foundation of your pose.
5. Your breath. Bring your focus to your breath when your feeling overwhelmed or ungrounded. Then consciously inhale for 3 exhale for 6.
6. Practice balance poses such a tree pose visualising your standing leg grounding down into the earth like the root of a tree.
7. Practice a grounding meditation. Visualise yourself connecting deep into the earth’s crust or visualise tree roots sinking deep into the earth. Practice my grounding meditation on MFML!
8. Practice brahmari pranayama. This is a slow humming bee sound made on the exhale. Send the breath low into the base of the belly.
9. Lie your back body on the earth with your hands on your belly and practice slow deep abdominal breathing.
10. Weight on your body can let your body really feel earthed and rooted. Lie with a sandbag weight on the lower belly for 5-10 minutes. Afterwards you will feel light yet grounded.
11. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar. Replace with earthy foods like root vegetables.
12. Spend time with people who are grounded!
13. Practice low to the ground postures focussing on the hips such as pigeon pose or seated hip opening postures such as sukhasana or firelog pose. These cultivate a downward energy known as apana vayu within the body and help getting earthed.
14. Cultivate a connection to and relationship with Mother Earth. Plant a tree, grow a plant. Get your hands in the earth!
The art of grounding takes practice. But once cultivated you will notice that you navigate life with more ease, riding its waves with greater grace and steadiness. May each footstep you take be a reminder of the earth, it’s constant support it provides us. And may this knowing help us to live more consciously taking more care of Mother Earth just as she does with us. Over and out!
Lucy has over 50 classes on Movement for Modern Life. And you can go on retreat with her this year in September on a magical deep yogic immersion retreat in Southern France. For more info visit www.lucyogi.com
>>Try This Grounding Flow For Hips>>
A sweet grounding practice, fantastic for when you need to get some balance in your life.
>>Or perhaps Lucy’s Grounding Meditation>>
A grounding meditation which will give you extra support, an access to a little bit of happiness no matter what is going on in your life.