Setting the Foundation
By Emily Weitz, March, 2011
Life is full of new beginnings. Every day, when the sun rises, a new chance. The best way to start anything is to set a strong foundation. When I walked in to Yoga Shanti’s gorgeous Lakshmi studio to teach my first class there last week, I had to go back to the beginning. Even though I’ve been teaching at other studios for four years now, my story at Yoga Shanti is yet to be written. So I came to the mat. I sat down. And I grounded down into the foundation.
The foundation of a pose is whatever’s grounding down in that moment. So in our every day lives, that often means the feet or the butt. But in the yoga practice, it can be anything from the ball of one foot to the hands. Bringing your awareness to that point and grounding down into it will give every pose a familiarity and steadiness. Same goes for new situations. As I sat at the front of my mat last Tuesday evening, as the light splashed bright colors across the walls, I felt my sitting bones settle into the Earth beneath me. It felt like I was coming home.
Each time you come to the mat, it’s that kind of return. So next time you come to Tadasana, settle in to that foundation. Don’t just stand on two feet with one hip jutting out to the side. Find the Earth beneath you and ground down with awareness. Feel the four corners of each foot settling down as if you were growing roots from the soles of your feet. Feel how from that strong, balanced foundation, the rest of the body rises up and out, and you feel lighter.
The same is true in every pose on the mat. Whether you are in half moon with one foot on the ground and one leg raised behind you, or in handstand with your feet above your head, by finding whatever’s touching the Earth and connecting into it, you’ll feel your body grow stronger, more balanced, and more free.
The purpose of the yoga practice, of course, is not simply to prove to yourself that you can stand on your hands in the middle of the room, or even to have a beautiful physical practice. The purpose is for that to actually matter. By finding your foundation in a pose where the usual foundation is literally turned upside down, you’ll be empowered in other aspects of your life. You don’t need to be in child’s pose to feel grounded. It’s not just about being somewhere comfortable and safe – it’s about finding that safe, comfortable place everywhere. When you have a strong foundation, you are safe. You are grounded. And that strong foundation is always there.
This is what we can bring into our lives. Life is changing all the time, constantly throwing us curve balls. Just when we think we’re ready to coast for a while, something inevitably happens and we have to re-assess “the plan”. Really, life is a whole lot of transitions strung together. And it’s hard to find the foundation in the transition. How do you make a home of a temporary sublet? How do you feel grounded when the rug’s been snatched out from under you? It’s like finding the foundation in the middle of your vinyasa. But you know what? It’s there. And when you ground down into all ten fingertips as you’re moving from chaturanga to upward dog, you’ll feel stronger than ever.
So as the days begin to pick up towards springtime, as the quiet of February becomes a distant memory, stay grounded. Don’t get so swept away in the action of it all that you lose your connection. Come back to the Earth, and ground down into it. After all, that’s the foundation from which we all rise up.