Grounding Into Your Roots
In the Yoga Book Club at Yoga Art Space, we are currently reading the book Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith. This is a very educational book which thoroughly discusses all aspects of each of the 7 major chakras in the body including what can damage them and what makes them heal. The chakras are energy centers in the body which form at certain times of our life as we mature. Each chakra represents different lessons of our life from how we communicate (Throat Chakra) to how we exert or hide our personal power (Solar Plexus Chakra).
During one particular week, we were discussing the first chakra, the Root Chakra. This chakra develops from the 2nd trimester to the age of 12 months and its main demon is fear. It has to do with the issues of grounding, roots, nourishment, trust, health, home, family, prosperity, and appropriate boundaries. It tends to orient toward self protection and the basic rights of this chakra are the right to be here (to exist, to have a body and to live) as well as the right to have (a physical body, to have needs met, et cetera). When these basic human rights aren't met, the child's roots don't sink downward into the earth to receive nourishment. Instead, as the person grows, he tends to have deficient lower chakras (grounding), and excessive upper chakras leading him to become overly intellectual and disconnected from his body.
The entertaining yet thought provoking TED talk "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" by Ken Robinson makes me think that this phenomenon of becoming overly in our head is a cultural problem which is disconnecting us from the roots of manifestation in our lives. In this talk, Robinson makes the following point:
"If you were to visit education, as an alien, and say "What's it for, public education?" I think you'd have to conclude, if you look at the output, who really succeeds by this, who does everything that they should,who gets all the brownie points, who are the winners — I think you'd have to conclude the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn't it? They're the people who come out the top. And I used to be one, so there."
He continues this description by explaining what he has seen in his career:
"And I like university professors, but you know, we shouldn't hold them up as the high-water mark of all human achievement. They're just a form of life, another form of life. But they're rather curious, and I say this out of affection for them. There's something curious about professors in my experience — not all of them, but typically, they live in their heads. They live up there, and slightly to one side. They're disembodied, you know, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads... Don't they? It's a way of getting their head to meetings."
Until it was stated for me so obviously, I didn't really recognize it. In my own life, my journey through high school and college was all about proving how smart and diligent I was. It was about how many AP and dual enrollment classes I took, how well I did on exams, how late I stayed up to finish my homework, and what I got as my overall grade. I do believe that I am smart and I do love learning (I will definitely be a lifelong learner), but my whole life up until that point was about trying to do well in playing someone else's game of success.
In this culture and in this world, I believe everyone will benefit by becoming more grounded in their own bodies (and depending on who you are, perhaps getting a little more out of the head). Because of these ideas, I've come up with 3 simple practices to help you start becoming more grounded in your life.
1) Remove Your Shoes. In the Book Club, I was astonished to realize that more than one person never let their bare feet touch the ground while at home. This surprised be because as a yogi and as a modern dancer, it has become common practice for me to remove my shoes when I arrive to where I'm going. The practice of removing your shoes and letting your bare feet caress the ground is extremely grounding. The feet contain more than 26 bones, 33 joints, and 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The feet are formed to constantly stretch out and make minor adjustments. When our feet are always bound up in shoes, it is like being wrapped up in a cast and many of these muscles become weakened. I would recommend making it a common practice to take off your shoes at home and then take it one step further. Let yourself close your eyes when you stand up and feel the parts of your feet that connect with the earth. Shift your weight slightly forward and backward as well as side to side and feel how the feet naturally work to maintain your balance through it all. Breathe in and connect downward.
2) Massage Your Feet. From a workshop I gave last month about Yin Yoga and Self-Care, I learned that some people think it is weird to massage their own feet. One person in particular said that it felt good afterward, but while she was doing it, she felt really awkward. Our feet take a beating when they are up all day in shoes which may or may not even be comfortable. When we massage the feet, we relieve the tension that builds up. The feet have many pressure points on the feet which may help benefit organs all over the body. You can check out some such images here. Try massaging for just one minute on each foot, alternating between long strokes and the thumb rubbing in circles. After this, set the feet on the ground (sitting or standing) and take a moment with closed eyes to feel the body ground and relax.
3) Body Dialogue. This is an idea from Eastern Body, Western Mind. In this technique, you essentially imagine that each part of the body is a member of a corporation and you are conducting a written interview from the feet to the face. As the book describes the examples, "I am my feet and I feel like the weight of the world is on me. I am my belly and I feel afraid. I am my head and I run the show.... when the whole bod has had a chance to speak, I then read back what I have written, omitting the actual body parts. I feel the weight of the world is on me. I feel afraid, I am running the show. I feel numb, tense." It may feel silly at first, but the reason this technique is so powerfully grounding is because as we move into our heads, we become disconnected with what our body is trying to tell us and with how we actually feel. Moving through the body in this way helps bring the energy down to a very physical level where we are able to manifest our energy as we direct it.
What grounding techniques have you tried which has helped you feel your connection to your roots?