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Getting Grounded

How the practice of earthing, and getting grounded back in nature, can even out our whole being when the stress is all too much.

Blame it on the full moon, your astrology, the vata (dry, crackly, flightiness) in your Ayurvedic constitution, aggravating forgotten passwords or impossible traffic…there are just those times when you’re desperate to exhale and get grounded but it seems impossible to catch your breath.

Know what I mean?

Scrambling in the stratosphere of scheduling, hexed by the helium of hustle, we gasp for air, searching for a drop line that will lead us back down to earth…to our centre…to Source. How do we get our feet back on the ground and stand in our true nature? How do we breathe our way back into balance?

In yogic philosophy, prakriti means ‘nature’ and it addresses the basic nature of the universe’s intelligence and function. Prakriti is all the stuff your soul bumps up against while you’re here on earth. It’s what Indian yoga master and author Sri Swami Satchidananda calls your ‘universe-ity’.

Prakriti is your essential nature. It’s composed of the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. Rajas is associated with energy, ambition and passion, tamas with inertia and darkness, and sattva with light, harmony and goodness.

Purusha is pure consciousness, supreme intelligence, our highest self. Insight into the relationship between purusha and prakriti leads us to our centre, drops us into our breath, and illuminates our path. Think of it as a deep breath for our soul.

Purusha and prakriti interact much like the two sides of our breath. They balance one another in their opposition like an inhale and an exhale.

Credit Pena Photography

The Vedas are the most ancient of all the yogic texts. In the Vedas, purusha has male implications and prakriti a correlation with female creative energy. Creativity is often the result of diverse and even seemingly contrary elements. I mean look at us.

We too are created from a combination of masculine and feminine. Hatha — an umbrella term used to describe the myriad practices of yoga asana (poses) and breathing — translates as ‘sun/moon’ or balance of opposites. Not to mention our lives are a fascinating paradox of intellectual and experiential — classical and current — concerned and hopeful, aren’t they?

So how do we integrate these tenets into personal understanding? How do we translate them from precept to practice? I find something called ‘earthing’ to be a visceral way in.

Full disclosure: I was pretty snarky about ‘earthing’ when I first heard about it. Earthing, or as some call it ‘grounding’ is basically the theory that our bodies are meant to come into contact with the earth on a regular basis. And, as it turns out, it isn’t just the result of a bunch of barefoot yoga teachers talking about ‘energy’ – there’s some biophysics and science to back this theory too.

Positive electrons in the form of free radicals are associated with chronic inflammation. Our lives have taken us away from direct contact with the earth – rubber-soled shoes, cement floors and electromagnetic waves from our cell phones and WiFi…and, as a result, positive electrons can build up in our bodies.

Credit George Reasner

The belief is that when we're grounded there's a transfer of negatively-charged free electrons from the earth into our body and these free electrons can act as potent antioxidants. Ocean, sand and soil are natural conductors of these neutralising negative electrons. Our constitution is about 85% water, so when we are feeling overly rajistic (fire, ambition) the tamasic qualities of water and earth bring us more into balance (think static electricity meets a humidifier).

A study that appears on the NCBI (National Centre for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the National Institute of Health) links grounding during sleep with a reduction of night time levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The Journal of Environmental and Public Health states: “Reconnection with Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of wellbeing.”

But for our purposes we’re less focused on medical proof and more interested in the psychological and philosophical benefits this earthly connection may hold. Certainly just being out in nature has a therapeutic effect on us. Why not use nature to bring us in touch with prakriti (the nature within and all around us)?

Step away from your desk, get out of your car and get outside — literally get your feet back on the ground, lie in the grass or dive into the ocean. When you feel the rajas of the sun meet the tamas of soil and water you experience sattva – the light of illumination. You are actually connecting to the elements: earth, fire, water, air and space and they give you a tactile language for balance, breath and sapience of the soul (purusha).

The sun and the moon, air and water, inhales and exhales, are reminders that we are unique expressions of male and female, purusha and prakriti. We are creative beings, dancing in the balance, enjoying a breath of fresh air, down to earth while we reach for the stars.

Practice yoga online with Andrea Marcum at: andreamarcum.com

Andrea Marcum

Andrea Marcum is a yoga teacher, retreat leader & author. You can find her online classes at andreamarcum.com