Among the many ways yoga can change your life is by teaching you how to stay grounded when life tries to topple you over. Like anything worth achieving, it takes trial and error, failure and practice to master this skill.
Why is it important to get grounded?
Things change all the time. The unexpected happens or has the potential to happen every day. Without a solid foundation, we can easily topple off course when we need to adapt to a new plan. When things don’t go the way we envisioned them, it’s not always clear how to respond. Often, our initial response is panic.
In yoga, we learn over time how to have a solid foundation and still be flexible. We learn tools we can use to go with the flow without falling to pieces when life tries to knock us over. We might experience some bumps and bruises, but we’ll still be standing in the end. (Sometimes, we’ll be standing on our heads.) Once we know how to get grounded, we can face new challenges with less fear.
Yoga poses to get grounded and stay flexible
Grounding poses in yoga include mountain pose, downward facing dog and, eventually, handstand. These poses strengthen our connection to the earth by rooting us into the ground through our feet (in mountain pose), through our hands and shoulders (in handstand) or through our hands, shoulders and feet (in downward facing dog). Other grounding poses include tree pose, standing forward bend, warrior, hero’s pose and even child’s pose.
The important thing about most grounding poses is that although we root firmly, we’re also able to sway. This is easier to notice in poses like tree, warrior and handstand, as we’re often a bit shaky in them, especially at first.
Tree pose: swaying in the wind
Tree pose is an excellent example of grounding with room to sway. Like mountain pose, which is a steadier grounding pose, the idea is to root through the ground. But in tree we balance on one foot. That can make it feel less steady than mountain, where we stand on both legs.
Over time, most yogis learn how to ground into the earth in tree while swaying at the same time. Then one day, the connection to real life becomes more than a metaphor. I can’t explain how this happens; I only know it does happen if you practice long enough.
Turning upside down
During the first few years I practiced yoga, I never considered headstand or handstand poses I’d ever be able to do. I did mostly gentle yoga to stay calm and centered (which is still among the things I value most about my practice). Then one fall day, I turned upside down. Usually, I did a more modified inversion (shoulder stand or legs up the wall) when the rest of the class did headstand. But on this day, my feet reached for the sky.
The day I did that first headstand, a friend had just asked me a question for an article she was writing. It was close to Halloween, and the article was about “scary” poses. She asked what pose I was most afraid to try, and my answer was headstand.
An hour later, I walked into class knowing it would be the day I faced my fear. Of course, I had assistance from the teacher; it was at least a few more classes before I could do a headstand on my own (with the wall a few inches away just in case).
A few months later, I had an opportunity to attempt handstand for the first time. Until that day, I hadn’t even been in a class where handstand was part of the practice.
My first handstand didn’t go well. I never returned to that class or teacher again. But soon after, the I found a more helpful teacher who guided me through the pose in a more grounded way.
In inversions like headstand and handstand, we turn upside down. Though we ground through our hands and shoulders instead of our feet and legs, we still need to find a way to stay rooted and strong so we don’t fall over. Sometimes we do fall over. Eventually we fall over less frequently and then, rarely if at all.
Then in yoga, as in life, there are new challenges. Next up for me is to do either of these inversions in the middle of a room instead of inches from the wall. Perhaps I’ll reach that milestone soon. But whatever happens, I know the important thing is to stay grounded and face the fear, whether I’m able to do the pose or not. The important first step is finding the courage to try.
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Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!