Grounding means connecting with the earth, both physically and spiritually. It is quite usual to start a yoga class focusing on being grounded.
Essentially, grounding is about leaving behind the daily pressures of life and connecting to the present moment using our senses and our breath. It invites us to notice what is happening inside of our physical bodies and to gain new insights by listening in this way.
Grounding helps us to feel calmer and more balanced and can help in reducing feelings of anxiety, as well as reducing pain and inflammation in the body.
Think of a tree with roots reaching deep into the earth — when we feel grounded, we too can grow and live from a place of stability. Just like a tree, when we are grounded we feel solid, strong and well balanced.
Emotionally, grounding for a few minutes at the beginning of class gives us permission to leave the external world at the door, to settle mentally and to ‘fully arrive’ before asana practice commences. Connecting to the present moment in this way also encourages physical relaxation and releases some of the superficial tension in the muscles, fascia and joints, or other things that we may have arrived to class with.
Yoga is a barefoot practice and part of the reason we do it in this way is because this supports a feeling of emotional and spiritual grounding.
Eastern philosophy states that our vital energy (also known as our ‘prana’ or ‘chi’) will increase when our feet are able to absorb energy directly from the ground beneath us.
Chinese medicine places great emphasis on the bottom of our feet where energy meridians and acupressure points are located. Practicing barefoot certainly provides a richer sensory experience as well as improving our technique.
A lovely thing to do is walk or practice yoga barefoot in nature; grounding in this way enhances the whole sensory experience. Research also demonstrates that connecting with nature in this way can reduce emotional stress, physical pain and encourage a better night's sleep.
To be grounded is to keep returning to the present moment, something that many of us find incredibly difficult. If we can keep ‘coming back’ during our practice to this feeling of being grounded then we will feel that the ground beneath our feet is more solid and reassuring, rather than being lost at sea, where many of us spend much of our day-to-day lives.