Before I taught my first ever yoga class, my own teacher gave the following advice: “Don’t let yourself fly away. Stop and breath into your crotch.” I stood there and looked at her absolutely dumbfounded. My crotch? What she really meant was to tune into my first chakra, one of seven spiritual energy points in the body, and be grounded. I followed her advice and instead of teaching from a place of nerves, I walked into the room with confidence and taught a rocking hip-opening sequence.
What is grounding and why is it important?
As human beings, we are prone to living in our heads. We get caught up in excitement, stress, day dreaming or even hiding. By keeping our energy up in the clouds, we are ignoring all of the signals and all of the support that our bodies provide. By tapping into our self-awareness, we open up a whole world of knowledge that we did not even realize existed. More importantly, it keeps us from making rash decisions or getting too caught up in a moment from overreacting. When we approach the world from a grounded place, we are working with our most intelligent self.
Grounding is actually much simpler than it may seem, though it takes time and practice. Once you have built your energy “toolbox,” all it takes is a deep breath or two. Below is a short practice to help get you started.
Whatever is going on in your life, commit to letting your issues chill on the sidelines for the next several breaths. Those issues are not going anywhere and it can absolutely wait for you. Breathe. Just breathe.
Pranayama (breath work):
Ujjayi: This gentle whisper breath is wonderful at calming a busy brain, and easing tension in the body. Use this technique to support yourself when faced with intensity, on or off the mat. You can do this anywhere, anytime.
First, inhale and exhale slowly through the nose, gently constricting the back of the throat. Listen for a Darth Vader-like whisper noise. Play with breathing into your shoulders, heart, low back and pelvis. Focus on how this feels. Can you trace your breath? Do not worry about hitting into these body spots on the first try. Instead, treat this breathing technique as a playful goal to work up to. Repeat for 5 or more rounds.
Brahmeri: This buzzing breath gently vibrates any energy that is stuck in the body. It may take a few pitch shifts to get the right tone, but you should be able to feel buzzing underneath your hands. You can always focus this breathing exercise into a single body spot. For grounding, I suggest starting from your upper body and working downwards.
Start by inhaling through your nose. As you exhale, keeping the mouth closed, begin to hum. You will work three to five breaths into each spot in the following order: Forehead, throat, heart, solar plexus and diaphragm, tummy, low back and pelvis area. Place your hands tenderly on the spot that you are breathing into and feel for the vibrations.
Asana (physical posture):
Active Hands and Feet: This is not really a pose in itself as much as a booster. In any asana or any place you happen to be, activating your hands and feet is the fastest way to connect to your fiercest self. Making this feeling a regular part of your day is kind of like having a super power. You’re tapping into your own support and radiating awesomeness.
Hands: Spread your fingers and gently push through your palm. I like to imagine little balls of fire forming as I focus my breath into my hands. Feel how this engages your whole arm.
Feet: Unlock your knees. Press evenly through the balls of your feet and your heels as you lift only your toes. Feel the four corners of each foot connecting into the support of the ground beneath them.