Grounding—Standing Firm Upon the Earth
By Leah Kinney, March, 2008
Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of
and stand firm in that which you are.
Somewhere between San Francisco and Chicago I lean over my sleeping neighbor, crane my neck and peer out of the window hoping to catch a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. I am very much an East Coast girl who gravitates toward sun and sand so the awesome rise of the Rockies never ceases to amaze me. Even from this awkward bird’s eye view, the majesty of the mountains is apparent. The glory of this scene drops me back into my seat with a satisfied thud. I sigh and turn back to my notebook with my pen poised above the page. It is kind of silly that I am contemplating “connection to the earth” while suspended thousands of feet above its surface, but here it goes…
Light on Yoga opens with Tadasana (mountain pose). In Tadasana, Iyengar encourages us to “stand firm and erect as a mountain” coupled with the caution that the profundity of Tadasana is probably not found in our habitual stance. Therefore, we must begin anew and assemble Tadasana from the ground up. Carefully aligning the body so that the pull of gravity becomes our ally, creating lightness in the body and clarity in the mind. From my aerial view, the mountains that I see provide infinite inspiration. I can see that the bright white reach of the mountain spires toward the heavens is born out deep earthly connection. The base of the mountains acting as an enormous footprint integrated into the earth’s surface.
When we practice standing poses with focused and heartfelt effort, our feet, ankles and legs become strong, the spine is set free and the innate intelligence of the body begins to stir. The dynamism of standing poses bring us into direct contact with the complex physicality of the body as it relates to the earth as well as the space around and above us. At the base of our standing posture is an actual footprint, setting the foundation for the pose. After consistent practice, the soles of our feet relax supple and full onto the floor, all ten of our toes spread wide as they land softly against our mats and we even learn to differentiate between inner heal, outer heal, back of the heal and front of the heal. It is an invigorating experience to interact so intimately with this animal body that we inhabit. Just as the feet provide a foundation for the standing poses, standing poses provide a wonderful foundation for our asana practice and beyond. Most importantly, standing poses connect us to the present moment. They provide the steadiness necessary to marvel at the wonder of each and every moment as it unfolds without lingering in the neither past nor projecting forward to the future.
A tree must root down below the earth’s surface in order to grow tall and strong, retreating deep into its source to fully extend upward. The direction of our yoga practice is similar. As we practice, we turn inward to observe and be present with the sensations in the physical body, thoughts that whir through the mind and finally the effects of the breath on both body and mind. Through dedicated practice, we steady our attention and follow it through surface thoughts and sensations to finally dive into our heart of hearts. The sages write that within the inner most chamber of our heart we discover infinite potential for love, compassion and joy. Kabir, the mystic poet of the 14th century describes this journey from the finite to infinite far more eloquently than I…