This column originally appeared in Om Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine, May 2015
Ground through your feet defined
As postural yoga teachers and students we employ a variety of words and phrases that wouldnâ€™t make much sense in polite society. We overload their meaning and use so heavily that we create a hugely subjective muddle. Letâ€™s reclaim an understanding of these words, use them consciously, and deepen their effect.
To â€˜ground through your feetâ€™ is an instruction that engages about one-fourth of the bones in the body. But usually youâ€™ll hear only about the footâ€™s â€˜four cornersâ€™ or a network of arches that rivals a gothic cathedral. In practice, â€˜groundingâ€™ is movement in two directions. Firstly, it asks for a push down through the foot and then, secondly, a muscular lift upwards through the foot and leg. When one pushes down evenly, be it through the four corners or the more accurate three points of contact in the heel, base of big toe, and base of pinky toe, one initiates support through the arches and sets up healthy alignment patterns that affect the knees, hips, and beyond. As even â€˜groundingâ€™ counteracts individual tendencies for collapse and distributes force and gravity through each pose, it is crucial to a healthy body and efficient asana.
Within different yoga traditions there are teachings on chakras, nadis, and energetic channels that run through the body. As many yoga postures begin with the feet, a balanced energetic grounding and lift through the feet can either stimulate these energetic lines or place the rest of the body in alignment to receive their openings. Beyond the subtle body, how we stand physically can reflect our emotional grounding. We may lean forward in anxious anticipation or backward in fear and hesitation. We may turn inward in shyness or turn outward in arrogance. To ground down evenly through feet as we practice asana is a metaphor of being present in the reality of the moment without illusion or ego. It is the posture of strength and sincerity.
â€˜Ground through your feetâ€™ is an essential instruction for strong and integrated asana practice. Not only does it mechanically align the body, it draws practitioners out of distractions and laziness and squarely into the body and present moment. Be deliberate, skilful, and clear with this instruction to reassert its power and efficacy.