Sunday, April 26, 2009


As I've written in my earlier post, after days of being here, there, and everywhere, some grounding is in order. My mind and body look for it. This morning, my grounding "ritual" consisted of cleaning my apartment and doing those weekend things that remind me of being home. Going to my favorite bread shop, then brunch across the street at this place. Taking a walk. Then, there's yoga. Yoga outside is even better - how can one not feel grounded in nature? So, here are some grounding poses:

Mountain pose

It may seem like you're not doing anything, but as you stand tall, every muscle is engaged. This pose is actually a lot of work! But it's all worth it. You'll feel centered, strong, focused.

Stand tall, either with feet together or slightly apart, with feet parallel. Bring your awareness first to your breath and observe how you are breathing right now. Are you breathing through the upper part of your chest? If so, breathe all the way into your belly, and exhale fully. Your belly and chest will naturally expand as you inhale, and relax as you exhale. Do this a few times until you can find a comfortable pace. You can begin to lengthen your breath; you can silently count to 4 (or to whatever feels good to you) for each inhale and exhale. Continue breathing with this kind of awareness until you feel relaxed and centered.

Then, feel your feet rooted to the ground. Distribute your weight evenly between both feet, keeping you balanced. Engage your stomach muscles, pulling your navel area up and into your spine. Open your chest, but relax your shoulders. Your arms can be resting on either side of the body, or you can place your hands in prayer position. Remember to relax your facial muscles. Breathe...

Warrior II

Take a big step back with your left foot. Your feet will be about one-leg distance apart. Your right foot will be pointing forward, your left foot will be slightly pigeon-toed. Turn your torso to the left. Bend the right leg so that your right knee is directly above the ankle. Engage the thighs, and again feel your feet rooting to the ground. Lift the arms into a T position, and gaze over your right fingertips. Relax the shoulders. As always, breathe... and enjoy the feeling of strength, balance, and grounding. After a few deep breaths, step your left foot forward and come back to Mountain pose for a few breaths, then repeat Warrior II on the other side.

Tree pose

Find your balance in Mountain pose. Then, shift your weight into the left foot. Feel the strength in your left leg. Then, slowly lift the right foot off the ground. Your right foot can just rest by the left ankle, or you can walk the right foot up the left leg until you find a comfortable position; your right foot can be resting on the left calf, on the side of the left knee, or on the left inner thigh. You can also use a wall for balance. When you're ready, you can place your hands in prayer position in front of the chest, or you can lift your arms overhead with palms together.

Be patient with yourself; if you lose your balance, just come back to Mountain pose and try again. In balancing poses, sometimes I find that if I focus more on my center, it draws the attention away from my extremities, and I am more able to find stillness. After a few deep breaths (or, as many as you like!), come back to Mountain pose, then repeat on the other side.

Also, it's not uncommon to feel more balanced on one side than the other. Our bodies are more asymmetrical then symmetrical; personally, my balance is more challenged on the left side as my left leg is weaker than my right. Just accept where you are now, and let go of expectation.

The Dancer

This is one of my favorite balancing poses! For one, I love the name... and two, I love the stretch I feel while I'm in it (you'll feel it in the front of your thigh and hip flexors). It's also a slight back bend when you arch your back as you lift your leg behind you.

Start in Mountain pose. Find your balance first on both feet, then shift your weight onto your left leg. Lift the right foot off the floor, bending the knee so that your foot comes up behind you and you can grab the top of your foot with your hand. You can stay here for a few breaths to feel a nice stretch on your thigh.

(Note: if you feel pain/stress in your knee joint, I would suggest not doing this pose. When my knee hurts, I skip it and do other balancing poses.)

When you're ready you can start to lift the leg higher behind you; you'll feel a slight back bend here. You can lift your left arm up overhead. Stay for a few deep breaths. Slowly lower the leg, then repeat on the other side.

Come back to Mountain pose, and feel grounded.

photo credits: mountain pose and warrior pose taken by Dad (New Hampshire), tree pose photo taken by Minnie (Maryland), dancer photo by Jen (Eden Park, Cincinnati)

PS: Today is my dad's birthday! Happy birthday, Dad!!! Much love. Here's to more yoga and meditation!

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