I was given really great advice seven years ago when I was going through yoga teacher training. It was one of those things, at the time, that didn’t seem super profound; however, over the years, I have realized just how essential that piece of advice has been to my yoga practice, my life, and even my sanity.
You see, when I was a new yoga teacher, I thought that the only way to be the absolute very best and most effective teacher, was to practice for at least an hour every day. I was under the (self-imposed) impression that I had to have the hardest practice to be the best yoga teacher I could be. We, as a society, especially as a sisterhood of women, tend to feel the pressure of doing everything, working more, being everything to everyone. How many of you can relate, maybe even if it was just a period of time in your life?
When I was going through this teaching training, I had a four-year-old at home and my toxic marriage was about ready to explode. I was overwhelmed and I thought doing more, practicing longer, working harder would get me faster and better results, when really, all of that seemed to be a fast track to burnout. Teacher trainings tend to put every personality trait you like, and especially the ones you don’t, under a microscope. I wanted to be the perfect teacher, so I had to have the “PERFECT” yoga practice (news flash: there is no such thing as the perfect yoga practice). My teacher, being the wise and experienced soul she is, stopped me one day and was asking me about my practice. I could start to feel my voice shake. I didn’t want to cry, but knew it was coming (as it normally does when we are on that fast track to burnout and not many things feel balanced). She looked me in my eyes and said, “Katie, you don’t have to practice yoga for an hour a day. Sometimes the best yoga practice is simply feeling your feet, closing your eyes, and asking yourself, what do I need today?”
I was blown away! I can still be a pretty good teacher and just practice ten minutes of balancing or do six minutes of hip stretches. She encouraged me to try this on for a week. When I did my check in, four out of those seven days, it was grounding. I needed grounding. When I look back on it, it’s no wonder when I had an active little one at home and a marriage that was about to blow up, I didn’t know if I was coming or going. So, yeah, the grounding makes sense.
Grounding can show up a couple ways in yoga. The first, and maybe most obvious way is to literally feel your feet. Ground (push) them into the floor or the earth. Physically in yoga, we “ground” so that we can lengthen or expand somewhere. For example, in triangle pose, we ground (or press our feet down) to lengthen our spine. Another way grounding shows up in yoga (and also in life) is that feeling of being calm, focused, and centered. This can happen by focusing on your breath like we have been working on, or simply by being aware of the way your body moves when doing the poses (an example would be to really feel and notice your feet pressing into the floor).
Grounding for me always brings me back to the question of “what do I need right now?” Sometimes it’s a quick walk around the block with my dog, sometimes it really is as simple as the breath or the moment of calm. Sometimes it’s pizza and wine and sometimes it's water and a salad (balance, right?). The practice of finding that calm and coming back to a grounded place sets you up to be more present and efficient with your day and hopefully less stressed.
So, I’ll ask you, what do you need today? Sit. Close your eyes. Feel your feet. Notice, is it a little more grounding? Maybe a little more vitality? Notice again.
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