Why Grounding is so important?
One of the most important teachings in Yoga Anatomy workshop is to show students how to ground themselves. Before start with very basic jet effective explorations in to how to do it, lets study the definition of grounding.
Usually the definition of grounding is related to the electricity supplies systems, the Wikipedia definition says, “in electricity supply systems, an earthing system or grounding system is circuitry which connects parts of the electric circuit* with the ground, thus defining the electrical potential of the conductors relative to the Earth’s conductive surface” If we translate this in to a bodily definition will give us a basic idea of grounding or what we intend to feel as we do the explorations.
We are energy; our nervous system is an electric system with an intricate connection of axons and neurons, which communicate themselves to make our organism to work with efficiency. When an electric circuit is grounded works as its best because can off-load excess current to the ground, same it occur to us. The danger of an electrical appliance not being connected to earth is that this excess current of energy doesn’t discharge and thus create an electric shock** or a short circuit*** On this terms the appliance will be our body.
The switch who connect us with earth (the Power source) is awareness, intentional and sustain awareness, and the wires where the energy-information travels through is our nervous system, the “electric potential” will be translated as the ideal amount of energy our human system needs to work without having a short circuit or an electric shock
Why can we be at risk of a short circuit or high voltage causing an electric shock? The answer is because we are not connected with Earth
When muscles work they are in a state of tension. Tension is necessary in order to move the bones, but sometimes we store unnecessary amount of it in key areas of the body (high voltage), the same applies to the mind, when mind is very active affect the state of our muscles making them tense.
The work of grounding allow us to release the unnecessary tension store in the muscles and also if we are out of energy supply (low resistant, short circuit) grounding will give us energy creating balance to the nervous system.
If we can learn to release this unnecessary tension, we will feel more in touch with the physical weight of our bodies, the skeletal structure will become more apparent, and we will be gradually more able to sink into ourselves.
First when we want to ground ourselves we have to stop or slow down to be able to feel the gravitational pull of the earth. Thanks to this magnetic healing force we have shape, gravity causes the motion of the oceans, the motion of out inner waters and controls the orbit of the stars, if you learn to follow this force you will be able to feel connected with something greater than yourself and a sense of trustiness will arise as a result. We can call it as live in the here and now, in the present moment; a beautiful bodily meditation. In the Satipatthana Sutta a Buddhist practice this is the first foundation of mindfulness, breathing with the body.
The way we start grounding is to establish contact with your body like feeling the areas where the body is touching the ground… then wait, listen, and you will be inform about the sensation and experience of the present moment, starting to have a clear understanding of what are you feeling as you begin to connect.
Contact is the act of registering experience, contact depends on where your attention is, when we do experience contact there’s a shift, something resonates something lightens up, there is a somatic and emotive effect that comes with this practice which make you feel of being in the flow, something good is happening.
One of the most effective positions to ground yourself is Constructive Rest Position. This exploration I learned it in a workshop with Liz Koch
Lay down on the floor with your knees bend, you can use a strap around your thighs if your knees tend to fall out or put a block in between if your knees tend to drop inwards, make sure the knees are align with your pelvic bones. Your feet are nether too far apart of your pelvis otherwise you wont be able to connect your feet on the floor loosening skeletal support for your legs, ether your feet are too close to the pelvis as the tendency is to droop the pelvis and loose the natural curve of your lower back.
If you are over extending your neck place a block or a hard cushion underneath your head. Placement of your arms must be confortable, you can put palms on your belly, cross the arms and rest them on your chest, or let the arms to be by the side of your body with palms ether facing up or down, feel what is best for you.
Once you’re on the position allow your mind to drop in to the sensations of the body, touch the body with your mind, making contact with an open awareness. Choose any sensation is speaking louder and follow the sensation. You will discover that the sensation will start to be stronger, will travel or perhaps observe how it fades away. Discover in which parts of your body you store the tension, usually the area will feel off the ground. Do not make anything to change it, just observe.
Breath is part of the experience
Feel the breath how moves the body, which part of the body moves as you breathe. Observe the qualities of the breath. For instance the inhale feels expansive, bright, energetic etc. The exhale feels like drooping, letting go, soft etc. You name it. As you become more comfortable observing the breath or the movements of breath you will be noticing that the breath will regulate itself becoming more deeper an slower, then send the inhalation deep down to your pelvis and allow the exhale to soften the body, try this for a few minutes widening and feeling the movements of pelvis and breath.
On this stillness observe all the events are happening, you will realize that are so many things going on inside the body, to be aware of them you just need to sustain an open awareness.
The body has the capacity to heal itself and is a truly incredible experience to be able to observe this process, witnessing the miraculous of our intelligent system adjusting itself in to the new experience. Feel how the muscles start to soft, feel how the skeletal structure start to move as the muscles start to loose the tension, and feel how the body start to droop in to alignment reviling the natural curves of the spine
It take 10 to 15 minutes to the nervous system to record the new information so make sure you have the time for doing it.
Match your sensations with your senses, the external stimuli coming form the environment, like how does it feel the air on the skin, how does it feel the light coming trough your eye leads as you are doing the posture, the smell of the room you are laying down, the warmth of the clothes, the sounds around you. This exploration will help the nervous system to create new neuropathways and so create change.
Whatever is the state of the nervous system in high voltage or low resistance this grounding exercise will bring you back in to balance.
Standing at the bottom of the sea, known as Zhan Zhuang (standing Qigong) This standing exploration I learned it with my dearest teacher Ajahn Succito in his last 10-day silence retreat at Amaravati Monastery before his retirement.
Stand with your feet shoulders width apart, toes slightly pointing out, close your eyes and feel how your feet make contact with the ground. Start to bring the weight of your body towards the heels, lets say 70% then bend the knees to create counterbalance. Soften the lower back around the area of the kidneys and feel how the belly starts to soften, allow the pelvis to settle in to a confortable position. The weight of your body is spread equally on both feet. Release the lower yaw, this doesn’t mean that your mouth will hang open, just soften the temporo-mandibular joint and your lips remain close.
Settle down in this position the body should be as soft and relaxed as possible. Allow the arms to hang from the collarbone, the head is right at the top on the spine, if your eyes are open you are looking at the horizon or slightly down. Once you feel your place lift the arms very slowly from your wrists feeling the weight of your arms, letting go the shoulder joint. Try a few times this undulating up and down arm movement checking for tension at the shoulder or neck. Once you feel your arms high in front of your chest at ease turn your palms as if you are embracing a big balloon.
After a sustain period of time observe how the body start to stabilize itself it feels as if you where standing on the bottom of the sea and being moved by the currents of water, Try to create kinesthetic images (images that produces sensations in the body) to create a more richer experience.
This grounding exploration will bring aliveness and release to your postural-stabilizing muscles or antigravity muscles, which act predominantly to sustain your posture in the gravity field. These muscles contain mostly slow-twitch muscle fibers and have a greater capacity for sustained work, they are prone to hyperactivity and they tend to shorten. Standing in the bottom of the sea will help to download the excess of energy and feel mentally grounded while acquiring internal power.
Movement in stillness. Slow movements are felt in the feedback loop of the somatic experience as heat, movements of breath, undulations, flow, little adjustments and more, all this are properties of Prana, or Qi. This little involuntary events triggered by kinaesthetic visualisation are movement in stillness.
Stillness in movement. Postural muscles are very active during slow transition between postures, when using intent to guide your postural muscles to lift your arms, you wont feel any effort, and this is stillness in movement.
*An electric circuit is like a pathway made of wires that electrons can flow through. A battery or other power source gives the force (voltage) that makes the electrons move. When the electrons get to a device like a light bulb, your computer, or a refrigerator, they give it the power to make it work.
** The term high voltage usually means electrical energy at voltages high enough to inflict harm on living things
***Short circuit. A low-resistance connection between two points in an electric circuit through which the current tends to flow rather than along the intended path. A short circuit can damage the circuit by overheating.