This was my ‘studio’ today.
It was beautiful. It was peaceful. And it took grounding to a whole new level!
Grounding myself and my feet is not one of my strengths. Let me start with that. It’s gotten better. And, while I’m slightly afraid to admit it, I think wearing Vibram Five Fingers has actually helped strengthen my feet and improve my standing balance postures. Still, I struggle.
And, today, with the wind blowing, balancing took on a whole new challenge.
Here are a few things that helped me:
1. Being present. The more my mind wandered, the more unsteady I felt. Funny how that whole concept is so much bigger than just the benefits it has in a yoga practice. Being present steadies not just a balance posture, it steadies your mind. Think about it. When your mind is scattered, everything about your life feels off balance. It’s impossible to feel steady in life, if your mind is scattered. As we know from yoga, going back to the breath, really deep thoughtful breaths, can help calm the mind, bring you back to the moment, calm the racing mind, and bring you back into balance.
As my favorite author/interviewee Paul Pearsall (may he rest in peace floating on a rainbow) said, “I’m not saying work less. I’m saying, when you’re at work, be at work. When you’re home. Be at home. We are unproductive at work because we want to be home. We are ineffective at home, because we’re thinking about work. Just be where you are.
The work will be there when the rainbow’s gone, but the rainbow won’t wait for you to finish your work.
2. Reach for the sky with the crown of your head. Lengthen the spine and open that seventh chakra toward the heavens while focusing on the four corners of the foot being grounded. It helps keep you from collapsing into your hip. This also has more wide ranging benefits. Standing tall, lengthening the spine allows the energy to flow freely through the body and opens up everything. I know I, personally, tend to collapse into my hips when I’m just standing somewhere. I’ve witnessed plenty of friends to who tend to sit hunched over. Both of the these postures keep energy from flowing freely, which impacts our entire way of being.
Keep in mind, the feet are also part of the mulandara chakra and part of what needs to be balanced for optimal physical and mental health.
3. Open the feet. We are not nice to our feet. Especially women. We keep them cooped up in shoes that bind and squeeze and just plain hurt! Yesterday, though, I decided to open up my feet. I started with a tennis ball and then moved on to the foot massager I got from my chiropractor. I relentlessly worked the fascia on the bottom of my foot to help open it. It hurt like hell… but it worked! (and a potential side benefit that may be connected and may just be coincidental. According to a reflexology chart, a spot near the arch of the foot corresponds to the stomach. My stomach has been bad lately and yesterday, after working that spot on my foot, I ate and my stomach was significantly better! All I’m saying is, it can’t hurt to keep trying that approach!
4. Finally, another beautiful thing about Ashtanga is the idea that each pose builds on a previous posture. We start with tadasana and return to tadasana often throughout the series. Rather than just standing at the top of your mat without any attention, make tadasana an ‘active’ posture, starting with the feet. Engage the four corners of the feet as you stand there. Engage the legs. Draw shoulders down the back. Engage the bandhas. Then, when it comes time to uttitha hasta padmotanasana, your legs will be ready for it.
Remember, build from the ground up.
You don’t build a house starting with the roof. You start with the foundation. In this case, your feet are the foundation. Without a solid foundation, the rest of your temple will be off balance and even the slightest breeze will blow you over.