We mention grounding a lot, but what is it and why is it especially important during Vata season? Sometimes it’s best to understand grounding by examining how we become ungrounded and how it feels to be ungrounded.
Many of us spend our days working long hours, staring at screens, existing in artificial environments, and rushing from one activity to another. When we live in this type of existence, it’s easy to get caught up in our minds and lose awareness. This causes energy to move upward. The result? Feeling scattered, distracted, restless, and anxious. You may also be overly emotional or sensitive. You might experience excessive mental chatter or irrational thoughts. You may even feel clumsy and find yourself reaching for additional stimuli or comfort foods more often.
In Ayurveda, these sensations correspond with the Vata dosha, which is more prominent in Autumn season. Vata is air and ether, which is associated with the qualities of cold, dry, light, irregular, rough, mobile, and quick. Since Autumn exhibits these qualities, and we mirror our environment, we can end up accumulating excess Vata – on top of the excess Vata built up from our fast-paced, demanding lifestyles.
So, how do we bring back balance? One way is to ground ourselves. Grounding not only helps us avoid these negative sensations, but it also helps us feel centered, strong, balanced, and peaceful as well as offers many restorative health benefits, like calming inflammation, reducing anxiety and improving sleep. This post will specifically examine grounding yoga poses and yogic techniques to help us feel more grounded.
Begin with Grounding Yoga Poses
An easy way to understand the concept of grounding is to view it as a way of being rather than a way of thinking. Taking it literally, we can start by feeling our physical connection to the ground. Let’s take a look at these grounding yoga poses.
When I think about grounding, I think about the earth element. If you want to increase the earth element, consider your foundation. Standing poses are the foundation of any solid yoga practice. They are the bread and butter, or rice and mung dal—the staples of a good yoga practice.
Seemingly simple standing poses such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose) teach us to stand tall and balance our weight evenly. Tadasana also gives us the opportunity to turn inward and observe the sensation of our feet on the floor or earth. Tune in and notice whether your weight is balanced evenly on the right and left foot. Is the skin on the soles of your feet spread evenly, or is it tight and wrinkled somewhere? Do you feel warmth or cold? Soft areas or hard? Allow yourself to relax into this connection and feel the gravitational pull of the earth. Then take your attention up to your legs and roots of your thighs. Are you hanging forward in the fronts of your thighs or are you standing upright on your bones? There are many, many other points to observe in Tadasana. However, simply start by observing how you position your legs and feet. This is a great place to begin to connect to this grounding yoga pose.
In general, all of the standing poses are helpful in creating a sense of grounding and connection to the earth. Standing poses connect us to our foundation, our feet and legs that support us, and even deeper—the ground and earth that supports us on an essential level. So, if you are feeling a bit light, airy, and Vata-vitiated, try practicing standing poses for 30-60 minutes. This is a great practice to do a few times a week, particularly during Vata season. A solid standing pose practice will build strength and endurance and will help you drop into your body and the present moment.
If you want to amplify the grounding effects of your Tadasana practice, consider earthing. The theory behind earthing is that the Earth’s surface has a subtle, negative electrical charge. On an atomic level, it is full of continuously renewing free electrons. When we connect our physical body to the earth, we allow these negatively charged electrons to enter into the body and neutralize positively charged free radicals (an excess of free radicals is linked to inflammation and subsequent diseases).
Earthing is said to help with:
- Stress reduction and cortisol balancing
- Pain relief
- Blood circulation
- Cardiovascular function
Earthing is a simple process. Simply go outside, kick off your socks and shoes, and feel the ground beneath your bare feet in Tadasana. Spend at least 20 minutes like this.
Mamsa Dhatu: Strength in Grounding
Another aspect to consider in thinking about grounding yoga poses is the mamsa dhatu, or muscle tissue. Mamsa dhatu is primarily made up of the earth element. Therefore, getting in touch with one’s muscles, strength, and healthy sense of will can create a sense of firmness and grounding.
Consider practicing yoga asanas in such a way that builds muscle strength and connection. As mentioned above, standing poses are a great way to do this. However, prone backbends (sometimes called belly backbends) are also useful. Think Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), and Dhanurasana (Bow Pose). Also, since you are literally on the floor or ground when you practice these asanas, you will further increase a sense of connection to the earth.
Meditation for Grounding
In addition, perhaps easier said than done…take a firm seat and sit upright in silence for 5-30 minutes. This is an excellent way to bring about a sense of grounding, calm, and earth connection. The exact position of your seated pose may vary a bit depending on your needs and abilities. You can sit cross-legged, or in Padmasana (Lotus Pose), or Virasana (Hero’s Pose). These are a few options. Just be mindful of the health of your joints, and choose a seated asana that you can remain in comfortably and pain-free for the duration of your seated practice.
Visualizations for Grounding
A symptom of being ungrounded is an inability to focus. This is where practicing or listening to a guided visualization can help. When we channel our minds, we may have an easier time staying present.
Try this exercise next time you want to feel more grounded: Start by breathing in slow and steady. Draw your attention to your feet. Stand tall. Imagine dark, cool and moist soil under your feet. Allow your feet to feel heavy. See yourself sink deep into the soil. Feel yourself be strong and rooted. Picture a tree. Now you are the tree. Envision roots growing out of your feet, running deep and anchoring you firmly into the earth. Bring your attention upward and stand tall. Reach toward the sky while maintaining your roots in the ground. Feel the sun shining down on you. You are alive, strong and radiant. Take a moment to bask in these sensations. How do you feel?
Mantras and Affirmations for Grounding
Mantra repetition is another technique that can be very helpful in grounding and focusing Vata during meditation. The bija mantra “Lum” is particularly helpful in connecting to the earth element and creating a sense of grounding. “Lum” corresponds to the root chakra.
When chanting, try using deep, slow, vibrating sounds. The experience can be stabilizing as well as warming. Mala beads can also help with grounding due to the tactile experience they provide.
You may also want to help yourself stay grounded by repeating affirmations each day. Some examples of affirmations good for grounding include:
- I am grounded.
- I am centered.
- I am safe and secure.
- I have everything I need.
- I trust in myself and life’s wisdom.
Taste for Grounding
Did you know that you can use taste as a tool for grounding? In Ayurveda, rasa is the word for ‘taste,’ but it also has several other meanings, including ‘essence’. Taste and essence are connected as taste is a way of experiencing the essence of our being in that moment. Through taste, we can connect with our senses to become present.
Chyawanprash is a particularly helpful supplement for grounding. That’s because Chyawanprash contains all six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Each taste serves a purpose and corresponds to a certain area of the tongue, which corresponds to a specific organ and dosha. When you consume Chyawanprash – slowly taking in all tastes as they appear – you’ll move awareness out of your mind and into your senses, while simultaneously waking up the body and balancing the doshas. This helps you become more grounded and present. Learn more about the benefits of taking Chyawanprash before yoga.
What are your tips for staying grounded?
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville