RESOURCES FOR THE MODERN YOGI

What The Heck Does It Mean To Be Grounded?

Posted by: on Dec 27, 2014 | No Comments
What The Heck Does It Mean To Be Grounded?
image from @smcracker

I’ve heard the word “grounding” thrown around my entire life. When I was a teenager, grounding involved no phone, no computer, no TV, and no fun. For the last decade, yoga teachers have asked me to ground this part of my foot or that part of my hand. What the heck is this “grounding” all about, and what’s the pay-off, anyway?

I’ve spent some time with this question, and what I’ve discovered is that:

  • GROUNDING IS a conversation with gravity.
  • GROUNDING IS NOT slumping, slouching, dumping, sinking, or caving in.
  • GROUNDING IS the experience of rebounding up and out of a slump.

“Grounding is a conversation with gravity”? Okay… Well…what the heck does that mean?

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but gravity is a tremendous force of nature. It’s been around a long time and it’s pretty good at its job. Gravity is stable, consistent, and reliable. It’s not just the earth or planetary bodies that have gravity—all bodies of mass exert a force onto each other. According to Sir Isaac Newton, “Every single piece of matter in the universe pulls every other piece of matter towards it and vice versa.” Grounding, therefore, takes place in the relationship between two bodies of mass.

This can be felt in a pose like handstand. When the hands are on the ground they’re like ears listening for the currents of gravity. In order to balance, the hands must be in a dialogue with the massive earth moving beneath them. The hands undulate on the ground in order to import the force of gravity up into the upper torso and all the way up into the legs. The weight rocks back and forth from the fingertips to the heels of the hands. Gravity becomes like sound waves bouncing off the sensitive hands and recruiting all of the muscles of the arms, shoulders, core and even the legs to stabilize and redirect the balancer into center.

This going-down-to-go-up relationship with gravity can also be experienced off the yoga mat. I went for a run with my brother a few days after he had finished the San Francisco marathon. He coached me a little while we ran.  He observed that I was wasting too much energy. He encouraged me to just drop my feet.

Drop my feet?

Yes. Rather than efforting to pick up my legs and exhausting myself in the process, I could actually go with gravity and let it do some of the work for me.

Brilliant!

By focusing on what is natural, moving towards the earth with your feet, the earth will give you a little boost back up. In this way, grounding doesn’t have to feel like a punishment at all. In fact, it’s an incredible source of uplifting energy, and the pay-off is more than just physical!

The nervous system is like the body’s power grid. Spending time grounding into the body through physical activity can be like 
grounding the voltage of a loose wire. Grounding activities can keep the current flowing safely throughout the nervous system, which may also be why activities like yoga, running and meditation can help to calm the mind.

For example, if we go back to Newton’s definition, we can agree that ideas and emotions 
are NOT bodies of mass. Thoughts, worries, hopes, fears, dreams, 
memories, and imaginings can take us on quite a journey – but it will be
 an ungrounded one.

According to the Yoga Sutras (I.2) the primary goal of yoga is to ground our minds, or as Georg Feuerstein translates, to “restrict the fluctuations of consciousness.” Making contact whether with our eyes, feet, ears or hands with something that is in our grasp can bring us back from a worries-gone-wild trip. Putting an idea onto paper can take it from a dream to a brainstorm to a real solution. When we make something physical out of our thoughts, we ground them.  We take them from the ether and put them on earth onto a piece of paper.  We make them real. We ground ourselves in poses like hanstand, by going for a run or by sitting and meditating so that we’re not blown around by our thoughts and worries.

I say to heck with being ungrounded!

What fear will you drop the next time you’re rooting your feet into the earth? What dream could you usher into reality by putting pen to paper? Because, to put it simply, grounding is all about touch. Touch the earth. Touch a friend. Touch a book. Touch a blade of grass. Touch a tree. Touch the water. Touch someone’s face. Touch a moment. Drop in.

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