I get excited. When I have a new idea, new intention, new learning process or when change is imminent. I fall in love with possibility, with process and potential. The thoughts turn and twist like a tornado and it takes some serious work to move from the mind to the body and the breath.
As yogis we are invited to cultivate dharana, or a concentrated focus on the task at hand. That might be your breath in Virabhadrasana 2, the steadiness of your foot Ardha Chandrasana or the single-mindedness needed to achieve your goals.
For some of us, the problem arises when we spend too much time with our thoughts. The planning, dreaming and processing can pull the energy away from our foundation and into the ether. And while dreaming is a wonderful way to craft the big ideas, often we need to plant our feet more firmly to the foundation in order to take the steps necessary to realize those dreams.
5 poses to get grounded and plant your feet firmly for the new year:
1. Toes pose:
Come to table top position. Bring your inner ankles and your inner knees together. Tuck your toes under and sit back until your sit bones rest on your heels.
Reach behind you and spread the flesh from under your sit bones and settle back again on your heels. Check to see that your pinky toes are tucked under as well.
For more support lean some of your weight forward onto two blocks placed next to or in front of your knees.
Stay for one to two minutes and breathe fully.
When we open the fascia under the feet we begin to address the entire posterior chain of the body. It opens the sheet of fascia that runs from the toes to the base of the skull, and provides space all along the backside of the body.
This sometimes intense pose invites us to breathe deeply and allow the weight of the body to settle towards the earth. Favoring the exhale breath here will begin to settle the nervous system and move the energy out of the head and into the feet.
2. Tadasana (Mountain Pose:
Stand at the front of your mat (or on any hard surface). Take your feet hip width apart or your big toes together with about an inch of space in between the heels.
Press down through all four corners of the feet: big toe mound, inner heel, pinky toe mound and outer heel...in that order.
Balance the weight front to back and side to side until you feel that the weight is evenly distributed.
Lift your toes to engage the muscles of your legs and mindfully set the toes back down.
Lift and tone your low belly, root your tailbone towards your heels and hug your shoulder blades together on your back.
Press down firmly through your feet and lengthen up through the crown of your head. Stay for one minute and breathe steadily.
Tadasana begins at the foundation and stacks the rest of the body mindfully from there. It is beneficial to cultivate this in all aspects of our practice. If the connection to the base is misaligned, then so is everything that comes after.
This can be true about our movements off of the mat as well. When we aren’t connected to the foundation, our actions can drift from the place where we are rooted, from our core values and our center. With a firm base we are more aligned to connect to our hearts, think clearly and speak our truth.
3. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
From Tadasana step your right foot to the back of the mat. Turn and plant your back heel. Line the front heel to back heel or back arch (whichever feels more stable in your body).
Slide the back heel back a couple inches until your toes turn slightly to the front of the mat. Bend your front knee deeply until it stacks over your ankle.
Bring your arms to a T shape with your wrists in line with your shoulders. Softly gaze over your front fingertips.
Squeeze the inner legs together until you feel the inseam of your legs engage. Root down strongly from your hips to your feet to establish the connection to the foundation.
Hold for 30-60 seconds and then repeat on the second side.
The strength of the lower body in Virabhadrasana II helps to establish apana vayu, or downward moving energy. Allow yourself to focus on the alignment and the pulsation of the breath moving through the body to quiet the mind and draw the focus inwards.
4. Eka pada rajakapotasana prep (Pigeon prep)
From downward facing dog bring your right knee behind your right wrist, connecting the outer leg to the mat. Check that your knee is wider than your hip.
Align your left ankle, knee and hip in one straight line and keep the ankle straight so that it does not sickle in or out.
Hug the inseam of the legs together, lifting the pubic bone off of the mat. Keep this engagement of the legs as you fold the upper body forward and rest your forehead on the mat, a block or on folded hands.
Keep the strength of your legs while you allow the body to rest heavily towards the support of the ground.
Often, a prop under the right hip, such as a block or a blanket, can be supportive here. Be mindful to keep the strength of your legs and not dump the weight onto your prop.
If this pose causes any discomfort on your knee, try a figure 4 shape lying on your back as an alternative.
Stay for one to two minutes and simply listen to the sound of your breath.
Hip opening poses are often grounding by their very nature. They encourage the movement of energy and awareness to the seat of the pelvis, the home of the first chakra.
The forward fold component of the pose invites us to connect more fully to ourselves by turning down the volume on external stimuli. Many of us are exposed to constant stimuli throughout our day. When we quiet the front body we quiet the receptivity and allow ourselves time to settle and connect to body and breath.
5. Balasana (Child’s pose)
From table top pose bring the tops of your feet to the mat and your big toe mounds together. Widen your knees until there is space for your torso to rest in between.
Sit back until your sit bones rest on your heels and extend your arms forward until your belly comes to or towards the earth.
Place your hands at least shoulder width apart. If your shoulders feel less mobile try taking your hands wider, towards the outer edges of your mat.
Connect your forehead to the earth, a block or a blanket for more support. A bolster or blanket placed under your belly can be a wonderful way to find more ease in this shape.
Breathe into the belly, side bodies and back body. Stay for as long as you would like.
In child’s pose we are practicing a variation of pranam, or reverential bowing. It can be seen as both bowing into ourselves and bowing to that which is greater than us, to our source. It can be a powerful pose to offer your intention for grounding and surrender. This connection encourages us to release the worry and the planning and to trust in the higher power, whatever that may be for you.
These five poses can be a soothing morning or evening routine when you are feeling disconnected from your foundation. Invite intention, breath and connection to settle and soothe your systems. When we plant our feet firmly we affirm our connection to body, breath, mind, heart and source. Give yourself this gift to get grounded in 2019.