Because yoga is how and where I am best able to ground and center myself. Whether teaching or practicing, yoga has the ability to help me clear my mind and bring me back to the present moment.
I also think that it’s an important aspect of yoga that is often overlooked and forgotten about.
So… what does it mean to Ground and Center?
Grounding helps to connect us to the present moment. It helps connect us to the earth and the physical world. It helps to instill a sense of calm in us. It destroys stress, quiets the mind, and allows us to let go of all of the junk that is floating around in our brains, causing stress, anxiety, and that feeling of being scattered.
Here are some ways you can practice grounding.
1) Imagine you are standing on the ground. Your feet are bare and planted firmly into the earth. Start to imagine there are roots coming out of your feet and that they are growing deep down into the earth. As you inhale, bring energy up into your body through your feet and as you exhale visualize and maybe even start to feel your roots growing deeper into the earth. You can do this for any number of minutes, no matter where you are at. Try to stay here until your breathing feels slower and your mind and energy feel calm and relaxed.
** If you have practiced in a studio your teacher may have told you to imagine that there are roots coming out of the bottom of your feet or your tailbone, maybe in the first few minutes of class, maybe in certain poses. This is grounding!
2) Get outside. Time outside can be greatly beneficial and even feel therapeutic. To move into a grounded space outside you can walk around barefoot, walk through your neighborhood or the woods (barefoot or not), do some gardening and stick your hands in the dirt, or sit in the grass for a few minutes. Take your time to use your senses and experience your surroundings.
3) Practice yoga. Because you are focusing on body and breath, yoga is a great way to bring you into the present moment. Some poses to try include: Sukhasana (easy seated), Tadasana (mountain), Utkatasana (chair), Utkata Konasana (goddess), Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge), or any other pose that makes you feel connected to your mat and/or the earth. Take your time in your poses. Spread your fingers and toes, press your palms into the mat, notice the four corners of your feet, lengthen your body and feel it in the present moment.
These are just a few of the many ways to work on grounding. Do some reading, explore, and then find a grounding practice that works for you. Just remember to breathe and take your time!
So we’ve explored grounding. But what the heck is centering?
Centering is bringing back all of your energy that might feel scattered all over the place back to its home base. It’s closely linked to grounding, but is more focused on clearing your mind and beginning to focus. It’s a time to quiet the mind, return to self-awareness, to own yourself and your energy, and to release anything that you feel is no longer serving you.
This is also often done at the beginning of your yoga practice as you start to relax your body and focus on your breath, and it is during this time where you set your intention for your practice. It can be done before or after you ground. Depending on who is leading the class you might do one or the other, or both. If you are practicing on your own, you might choose to focus more on one area, or equally across the two.
So how do you center? Here are two ways:
1) Come to seated and rest your hands on your knees, in your lap, or in Anjali Mudra (prayer). Close your eyes, relax your face, shoulders, belly, and the rest of your body. Start to breathe in and out, noticing your breath and its qualities. As your breath starts to build try and connect to it, breathing in and out through your nose. As your mind begins to clear and the scattered thoughts and energies fade, set an intention for your practice or whatever activity you are about to engage in.
2) Find a comfortable position and start to clear your mind of all your scattered energies and then bring them into a single point of space in your body. You might start to do this by pulling the energies into a ball as you relax your body, breathe, and focus on an area in your body where this energy feels at rest. This could be one of your chakra centers or somewhere else. Think of it like a center of gravity for your energy rather than your body. Focus on this area, bringing your awareness to it while you continue to pay attention to your breath. After some practice you’ll begin to feel a clearer mind and over time you’ll know the feeling of being centered.
Finding your center can also mean connecting with your spirit and the inner god or goddess. This is a place where you can focus on your own goodness and it’s a time to feel stable, confident, and able to freely express yourself. A place where you can trust your intuition, connect to your higher power (if you have one), and a safe place that’s always there and available to you, to help you feel renewed and refreshed. And even though we are focusing on using grounding and centering in your practice here, know that you can do this at any time, you don’t need to be practicing yoga. You might ground or center before a big event, meeting, job interview, during a stressful time, or any time that it feels good for you. Once you find this space in your mind, you will find that you are easily able to come to this space and feeling no matter where you are at.