Grounding practices


Grounding is a word that most yoga teachers mention quite a lot, but why so? Directing our attention and energy downwards stabilises our body, centres our mind, and tunes us into the present moment. Today the world moves very fast, and the lives of most people have become so busy that high levels of stress and anxiety have become the norm. As a result, many people are left feeling ungrounded and emotionally out of balance.  

Recently I realised how important grounding is, especially in the morning as it helps to settle the mind and set the tone for the day. Practicing yoga, going for a jog or meditating are great ways to start the day - but sometimes it is hard to find the motivation to do so. It can be a challenge to ground and calm our monkey minds, especially when our smart phones are close by, or a delicious breakfast awaits! Below are some tips that help me ground my energy, particularly on days when my body is tired and my motivation is low.

Lately in these cold winter months, I have skipped my personal practice and slept in more, ending up feeling disappointed in myself for not being a ‘good yogi’. I decided to listen to my body, and realised what I really need to do was a more passive practice to help ground my energy – so I started practicing yin. Yin yoga involves variations of seated and lying poses which are held for 3 to 5 minutes – accessing deeper layers of fascia connective tissue. When practising yin I don’t need to move my body, I can just release into the pose and let gravity do all the work! Staying in each posture for a few minutes, and observing the sensations that arise in the body, is a great way to practice mindfulness. Make sure to slow down the exhalation – this will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and will help ground the body and put it into a state of deep relaxation.

Recently I discovered a simple practice called ‘Earthing’ that makes me feel more alive, present and reconnected to mother nature. Earthing simply involves connecting your feet to the earth. Well why on ‘earth’ would you do this (pardon the pun)? Studies have shown that by walking barefoot on the earth, the body takes in the earth’s negatively charged free electrons. When absorbed in the body these electrons are powerful antioxidants, and help to reduce chronic inflammation, pain and stress. During these cold winter months, I wrap up warm and walk around my garden barefoot a few mornings a week, for 5-10 minutes, weather permitting of course!!

My favourite way to ground, especially when I am stressed or anxious, is to do the following exercise which can be practiced anywhere. While seated in a chair, take off your shoes and gently press all four corners of each foot into the ground. Press your palms softly into each thigh. Root your sit bones into the chair and allow your spine to grow tall. Take a slow, long, deep inhalation into the belly. As you inhale, imagine drawing energy up from the earth through the soles of your feet, and feel it flow through the body to the crown of your head. As you exhale, soften the muscles and send the breath and energy back down the body, through the feet and into the ground. After a few deep breaths, just pause, and allow the breath to return to its normal rhythm. Observe the contact of the feet with the floor for a few moments, and then hold the whole body in awareness for a few breaths. Let go of any tension you are still holding onto, and feel the support of the chair below. After a few minutes, you will be surprised how grounded and calm you will feel!

To learn more about grounding practices join Ruth Delahunty & Aisling Conn in The Yoga Room on 3rd February, 2pm, for meditation, asana practice, relaxation and take home material on top tips for grounding.

Con Sheehan_Portrait.jpg

Con is currently studying a Masters in Mindfulness Based Interventions in UCD. He is a 200hr certified yoga teacher and is currently completing his 500hr yoga teacher training in The Yoga Room. He teaches in The YogaHub at 6.10pm every Monday and at 8.30pm every Wednesday.

Waves of movement

The breath is the where the magic is found in yoga. It deeply affects our physical and mental state. Conscious breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system through the cerebral cortex (rest & restore), increases lung capacity, builds circulation, aids digestion, release emotional and physical tension, and increase overall well-being. When we link the breath with the movement in our practice it slows the breath down – bringing more oxygen to our whole system and establishes a deep and constant breath.

Bringing our attention consciously to the breath in our practice is a challenge that continues as long as the practice itself. To the onlooker, a yogi flowing through their sequence may seem very relaxed and calm, but there is much unfolding on the mat. The complexity of alignment in each asana, the controlled and safe transitions, maintaining a meditative state of mind, and most importantly, remembering to breath! It’s no surprise that you might find yourself holding your breath while you are concentration on your flow, or during a challenging asana. Simply remembering to come back to the breath during your practice, and checking in with how you are breathing, will help to build your concentration, and face those challenging asana.

The breath moves through us like a wave. On an inhale the belly and ribs expand as the diaphragm contracts down, and on an exhale the belly and ribs contract as the diaphragm expands up.

Before you try the sequence above, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Place your hands on you belly and take a few comfortable breaths – following the ebb and flow of the air. When you are going through the asana let your breath initiate each transition. Keep returning to the breath during your practice If you find you are loosing the connection between the breath with the movement, go back to the simple warm up flow sequences and keep your practice simple. As you pause in each asana, use the breath to melt aways any tension you might encounter. For more information on using the breath to pause click on this link.

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Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Finding the pause between breaths

Take a moment to examine a long, deep breath. Notice the quiet moment between the in-breath and the out-breath. Like a change in direction, there is a moment of pause where everything is still. In this moment alone, the body is peaceful and the breath rests.

Life has become busier and the pace of life faster. We move from one job to the next, spend hours in front of computer screens and eat food on the go. Although we’ve become more aware of the need to slow down and recalibrate, it can be hard to find the time or the know how to do so. ‘Finding the pause’ can be as simple as stopping and breathing. Just take five long breaths to clear your mind, calm your system and be ready to start again into the next job. Connect with how you’re feeling now, in this moment. Let the completed job go and the next job wait.

I find the busier I get, the faster I move and the more I take on. It’s as if life is moving in constant circles getting faster and faster until something, eventually, has to give. Then I get a reminder that I need to slow down, pause and breath. It can seem impossible sometimes to stop but the next time you’re in the throes of a hectic day scan your body. Are your shoulders tight, are you holding tension in your back, are you breathing shallow breaths or even holding your breath! As a result we make a list of things we intend to do to remedy this tension when sometimes it’s as simple as taking a deep breath. Becoming aware of how you feel is the first step to making changes. Find the pause between breaths, between jobs, between meetings, waiting at traffic lights; you can even find it between asanas in your yoga practice.

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru