Jul 31 2012

7 Steps To Getting Grounded Today

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Being “grounded” has become somewhat of a buzz word these days, but what does that actually mean? Well, the actual definition of “grounded” according to the Miriam Webster dictionary means “mentally and emotionally stable; admirably sensible, realistic and unpretentious”. With our fast paced lifestyle and stress mounting upon us due to relationships, finances, job woes, care giving, etc., staying “emotionally and mentally stable” can be a challenge to say the least. This instability can lead to disconnect from our true nature and birth right to happiness.  Leading a life “realistic” and “sensible” is often not on our radar when stress is upon us. We end up living our lives unconsciously rather than deliberately.

Have you ever been driving and realized you lost 5 (or more) minutes of time as if on autopilot? You can be washing the dishes and thinking about your never-ending to-do list or you can simply fly off the handle at the smallest incident. Yup, those are all examples of being ungrounded. Your body and mind are playing for two different teams. Your body is physically present on the earth, but the mind is lost in space.   All our energy can get trapped in our heads without being connected to the physicality of being in our bodies.  This disassociation leads to reactions that are less than “admirable”.  If this describes you, don’t worry!  You are certainly not alone.

Life has so much more to offer us when we reverse the flow of energy that perpetually hangs out in our head.  Being grounded in our bodies puts us in the here and now. The present moment is the place where we are at any given time. That’s reality so why try to escape it? When we are grounded we can fully appreciate all that we are and have in life and feel less stressed and anxious about the greener grass on the other side of the fence. Being grounded in the here and now, allows all the thoughts and daydreams we have to actually manifest and become reality. Our connection to the earth provides the container for abundance freely flow to and from us. Without this container there is nothing to hold life’s gifts. The earth is always here for us offering her unrelenting support and nourishment so enjoy and soften into that space of safety and love.

Yes! You have managed to stay grounded enough to make it to the  7 Steps of Getting Grounded!

  1. Develop a loving relationship with your feet! Appreciate and show some gratitude for these body parts that connect us to the earth and take us where we need to go everyday.  Show your feet a little love with a massage with your favorite lotion or oil. Get a pedicure! Why do pedicures feel so good? Not because we know our feet will look pretty, but because loving out feet is grounding.
  2. Turn OFF the technology! Take a break and disconnect periodically from your emails, facebook, twitter and all that jazz. I’m not sure why it’s called “surfing the net”. That phrase implies some level of groundedness. Technology keeps is in our heads not in the here and now of our bodies. Disconnect to Reconnect.
  3. Stop, Drop and Breathe! Ok, not the drop part unless you really want to, but breathe. Connecting to and slowing down the rhythm of your breath is the quickest way to ground you in the present moment. Feel your breath come into to your body, graciously expanding your lungs and leaving your body taking with it anything that is not needed.
  4. Set a grounding affirmation. Using the power of affirmations can help you develop a more positive outlook on life and get you out of the negative self talk that traps us in our heads.  If you are going to “talk” to yourself you might as well have life-affirming thoughts. Here are some suggestions for grounding affirmations. The earth nourishes and provides for my needs. I am safe and loved. I trust in my body. I am grounded.
  5. Get some exercise- Walking,  dancing, yoga, tai chi and swimming are examples of how you can energize your feet and legs to feel more grounded and present in your body.
  6. Get Dirty. Literally touch the earth. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass, dirt, etc. Repot that plant your have been meaning to do or plant the herb garden that has been on your to-do list. Whatever it is, connect with the earth in its truest form.
  7. Be a Mountain. Mountain pose, the foundation of all standing yoga poses, is very grounding when done with intention. Plus, you can do mountain pose anywhere and not look like a crazy person…Warrior II in line at the grocery store? Maybe not…

Stand with your feet slightly apart and parallel to each other. Put your mind in your feet and their connection to the earth. Press all parts your feet equally into the earth (or your shoes). Allow the muscles of your legs to firm giving yourself a gentle hug. Draw energy up from the bottoms of your feet into your belly and send the energy back down into the earth. Breathe and stand firm in all that you are in this very moment.

In these times of the world moving so fast our feet barely get chance to find their ground I hope you find these tips helpful!

Peace to All!

Leigh Crowder MOTR/L, PYT-C

YoPro Therapy


Dec 15 2010

Family Yoga!

Willis Tant

There is a class at Jivamukti Yoga on Sundays at noon that is called Family Yoga.  It is intended to be for all people of all ages and can be shared by any and all family members.  The teachings are simple and useful, there is a sense of fun, and songs that help students easily learn the movements.

It is my favorite class that I have the honor of teaching.  I am often so touched by family togetherness that I am moved to tears.  There have been students who bring in their sisters who visit from out of town, there have been father-son moments, and grandparents and small children who delight us all.  But most regular has been one family, who, come almost every Sunday, because they make it THEIR Family time.  Their time to BE and grow together!  Their time to stretch, and breathe, and SEE each other.  Often they go on a picnic or to the beach or even to the grocery store together afterwards.  But for that one hour, every Sunday, they practice together.   I revel in their beauty every week. 

Last Sunday they were telling me how they invite other families to join them, how they spread the word because they have experienced such value from the practice together.  They inspire me and I am so grateful to their dedication and enthusiasm.  They humble me and are a living example of light.  So may this, my first blog, be a sincere offering to this family who has shown me so much love.  Thank you. 

And thank you for coming to practice yoga together in my presence so many times over.  We invite more Charleston yoga families to join us! And look forward to growing, being, and seeing you more often.


Nov 1 2010

Resistance

Natasha Alexandra Akery

This morning I practiced janu sirsasana. This pose became an analogy for the art of surrender unto God.  Upon entering a pose, we have a tendency to resist in certain spots of the body.  In this particular one, I engaged my hips and lower back, which prevented full fold over my right leg.  Guided by my breath (my anchor), I began to relax into the fold and experienced that full release, the surrender.  I felt my chest and face graze my leg as my exhale and gravity carried me down.  I interlaced my fingers around my foot and pressed my heart toward my toes.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  I felt deeply loved.

And so it is with the surrender unto God.  We resist initially because he is the mystery, the unknown, the unfathomable.  But there are some things that I do know – that he is steadfast in his love for me and wants to encapsulate me in that love.

After some time, the body begins to resist the pose again.  There are a number of reasons for this.  The exertion could be tiring or the position uncomfortable.  More often it could be a slack in concentration.  We grow accustomed to that ecstasy we experience in theasana and then begin to shift out of it inherently.

Despite my desire to bask in the glory of God, I become distracted in my heart and my focus.  My attention diverts to something else and I drift out of the sacred space we cultivated together.  But then I remember.  I realize that something has changed.  I am conscious of the absence of that deep seated love.

When we regain our drishti both with our eyes and our minds, we sink back into physical release.  Concentration returns to the full manifestation of the posture and we enter back into its benefit, this time with greater intention and maybe even more deeply.  Somehow, it is even better than before.  There is less resistance after shaking off the initial resistance.  There is simply being.  Instead of a glimpse of ecstasy, we bathe in it and saturate.

Remembering the Lord, I bring myself back to his feet.  I enter into surrender with more trust and experience.  My diversion actually provides evidence for the goodness of being one with God.  My lack of concentration actually reminds me that nothing is greater than tying my heart to his, being completely his.  I release all tension and engagement.  I sink into his presence.  Instead of momentary vision and light, I bend beneath the weight of his glory and soak in the substance of his love.


Aug 26 2010

Meditation and Your Brain

Rae

I recently read an amazing article in Yoga Journal on “Your Brain on Meditation,” by Kelly McGonigal (www.yogajournal.com/health/2601). She teaches yoga, meditation, and psychology at Stanford University and is the author of Yoga for Pain Relief. It is so inspiring that there is now scientific evidence that your brain on meditation actually changes its structure in different regions of the brain depending on the meditation. For instance, “over the past decade, researchers have found that if you practice focusing attention on your breath or a mantra, the brain will restructure itself to make concentration easier. If you practice calm acceptance during meditation, you will develop a brain that is more resilient to stress. And if you meditate while cultivating feelings of love and compassion, your brain will develop in such a way that you spontaneously feel more connected to others.”

Meditation in the Christian faith is often read and talked about, but not often taught. Meditation is compared to learning a skill like playing an instrument or a sport. In the Message version of Matthew 6, by Eugene Peterson, Jesus say’s “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

Prayer and meditation are two integral practices that join or unite us to our Creator. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to Him. However, they both are forms of communication and require practice, patience and time. Our brains are so complex, yet we are designed in such a way that when we take the time to meditate a physical manifestation of gray matter in the brain is produced in different regions. According to “Eileen Luders, a re-searcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine found that increased gray matter typically makes an area of the brain more efficient or powerful at processing information.”

How do we put meditation into practice and deepen our faith? Meditation is an ancient old practice and is used in many religions to connect with God and non-religious meditation techniques link the breath or repeat positive phrases (mantras) to calm the nervous system.  When Jesus visited Martha “her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). Learning to be still and quiet in our inundated culture and living up to the expectations that we place on ourselves and others requires discipline.  By practicing just 10 to 90 minutes a day you can experience immediate results of calm and peaceful feelings.

This meditation was taught to me at Yogaville, an Ashram in Virginia.

Connect to God in Meditation

  1. Go to a quiet secluded place
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Draw your shoulder blades on the backside of your heart as you melt your shoulders away from your ears
  4. Expand from your heart center and smile with your collar bones
  5. Ground in through your sitting bones by pulling back any access flesh
  6. Inhale and Exhale:”Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  7. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that I am.”
  8. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that.”
  9. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know.”
  10. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still.”
  11. Inhale and Exhale: “Be.”

Jul 14 2010

The Heart of Yoga: A Young Yogi’s Perspective

Matthew Foley

As I’ve begun my journey as a new yoga teacher over the past year, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the essence or heart of yoga. What is it exactly about yoga that makes me passionate both as a student and now a teacher?

It’s difficult of course to talk about THE heart of yoga, since yoga means many different things to many different people. One of the most noticeable aspects of the modern-day yoga community here in the States is the incredible diversity of reasons why people come to a yoga class. If you were to conduct a poll of people entering any given yoga studio and ask “Why did you come today?”, I think you would be amazed at the variety of responses.

Some are coming simply for a good workout. Some are coming for a personal oasis during the day – a chance to get away from the job, the to do list, the day-to-day grind. Some are coming to recover from injuries and wounds, both physical and psychological. And some come seeking the more spiritual aspects of the yoga tradition – to discover their true selves and perhaps find a little bliss along the way.

I think it’s quite a positive thing that many people are coming to a yoga practice from so many different perspectives. I think it actually speaks to (if you will excuse the pun) the flexibility of yoga in meeting a wide-range of needs of the modern person. Not bad for a tradition that’s been around for several millennia.

As I go into this question of the heart of a yoga practice, I realize that I can only really speak for myself and from my own experiences along the path. I am also a firm believer in the maxim “One Truth, Many Paths” – that there is a multitude of ways to express the same perennial truth. I realize that my words are, at best , mere fingers pointing at the moon.

Even though I can only speak of the heart of my yoga practice, I still think these thoughts may be helpful to someone at the beginning of their yoga path or someone interested in seeing things from a different perspective.

So, I come to this question: when I am teaching a yoga class to a group of students, what am I really trying to get across, what am I really hoping to share with them?

The heart of what I hope to cultivate in a yoga class – whether as teacher or student – is essentially an inner experience. It isn’t so important to me that I or anyone else perfects any one particular posture. I don’t think there is anything magical about an asana in and of itself – as if doing a perfect Virabhadrasana II is the mysterious ticket to everlasting nirvana. I think some people were born to do the uber-flexible advanced postures of yoga – but many of us aren’t.

I’m also not particularly interested in advancing a particular belief system. I think yoga’s current appeal in the West in terms of spiritual matters is that it offers a way of relating to spirituality – of connecting to the sacred, to the divine, to God – that isn’t about believing one particular way or subscribing to a specific dogma.

I believe yoga’s true gift (though it obviously doesn’t belong exclusively to yoga) is an inner experience of transformed awareness. In other words, yoga provides a radically new way of feeling our connection to the world and a transformed way of experiencing ourselves.

As we relax, expand, and open both the body and mind throughout the course of a yoga class, we clear a space within ourselves that is ordinarily cluttered by all the anxieties, fears, tensions, and doubts of our fast-paced lives. Within this cleared, open space, something else, something deeper, something more profound finally has the chance to speak.

If we are bold enough to listen, we find that it is our true selves – a self not exclusively rooted, however, to the narrow confines of me and mine, my story and my wants. This open, expanded self doesn’t necessarily reject what we feel we need and want in life, but it puts it all in a fresh, expanded perspective. I personally don’t subscribe to the notion that a spiritual practice is meant to help us transcend our earthly existence, as if there is something wrong with being a living, breathing human being on planet earth. In fact, my experience has been that a yoga practice helps us reconnect to the splendor of just being who we are, in a gorgeously interdependent world of plants, animals, sunshine, mountains, and all the wonders of life.

This newfound connection to life, brought about by the transformation of our consciousness, offers not just a solution to our modern sense of alienation and dissatisfaction, but also offers a blueprint for relating in a more ethical and responsible way to our fellow human beings and our ecological environment.

At this point, you may be asking: isn’t this a tall order for an hour-long asana class, often scheduled between one student’s business meeting and another’s commute to pick the kids up from school? Well, in my opinion, the heart of yoga doesn’t reside within the walls of any one yoga studio, nor does it always involve a yoga mat. Yoga is a transformative way of living one’s life, right here and now, whether you are attempting a headstand or folding the laundry, whether in deep meditation or looking into the eyes of your loved one.

I hope these thoughts bring some new inspiration and insight to your practice, whether you are just beginning or have been at it for many, many years. Yoga can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, so I share this not to convince you of the “right” way to do yoga, but to hopefully inspire you to find the heart of your yoga practice.