With so many external distractions competing daily for your attention it’s easy to lose your center and feel thrown off balance. When you constantly react to people and situations, you can lose touch with yourself and your inner guidance.
Staying centered and grounded is key to navigating challenges and change with equanimity. When you’re centered from within, you boost your capacity to make the highest choice possible in each moment, instead reacting out of stress or anxiety. Use of your feet is one way to stay centered. The feet are about foundation and support; they root and connect you to the planet.
Janna Delgado, yoga and mindfulness teacher and lead faculty at Stockbridge, Massachusetts-based Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, suggests these six practices to help you stay grounded.
1. Take your shoes off. “The feet are sensory organs,” Delgado emphasizes. “They’re intelligently designed. They communicate to your body and brain and impact the knees, hips, and balance.” Because feet are encased in shoes so much of the time, they aren’t able to fully release, and muscles can become cramped and tight. “The feet should be as articulate as the fingers and palms of your hands,” she notes. “The more mobile and supple your feet are, the more grace you have to move through life and your day.”
2. Walk barefoot. Not just inside, but especially outside where the ground is craggy and textured. This helps build strength and balance. Delgado explains that most people tend to walk on either the outside or insides of the feet, rolling slightly outward to one side or inward toward their knees. To promote sturdiness and stay grounded, practice walking heel, ball, toe—known as the tripod points—with your weight balanced evenly on these three sections. Pay attention to the sensations in your feet as you’re walking.
3. Stand on the earth barefoot. “The earth itself is grounding,” stresses Delgado. The earth has an energetic frequency and its electrons are antioxidants that can help neutralize and counteract the damaging effects of free radicals. We spend more time indoors than our ancestors and we’ve lost a connection to nature. To re-establish a connection to the earth, Delgado recommends you “draw in the rootedness and solidity of the ground. Earthing has been shown to improve sleep, decrease pain, and reduce stress.
4. Standing Mountain yoga pose (Tadasana). How you stand affects how you feel. Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart, toes facing forward. Hips square. Press your weight down evenly on the balls, arches, and heels of your feet. Let your arms hang at your side, palms facing forward. Lengthen the spine upwards. Gently move your shoulder blades back and open the chest. This pose fosters focus, calms the mind, and helps you stay grounded.
5. Roll a tennis ball under your foot. “This is a deep tissue massage for the sole of your foot,” says Delgado. It increases circulation and oxygen and “opens up the channels of the feet and nourishes your whole body.” In addition to benefiting the muscles and bones, it also supports the fascia—which is the connective tissue that wraps around your muscles, nerves, blood vessels, organs, and bones, providing an internal structure and holding everything together.
6. Breathe. “The breath is your superpower to regulate your nervous system,” asserts Delgado. “When you change your breathing you change your physiology.” The breath is your most accessible tool to self-regulate and stay grounded. “It’s the only part of your nervous system that you can consciously control,” she affirms. Under stress, the breath becomes rapid, shallow, and erratic; your nervous system moves into flight-or-fight mode. To shift to rest and digest mode, take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths into the belly. Breathe fully into the belly and exhale.
Delgado points out that how you participate in a practice—the mindfulness you bring to a movement or activity—is the central element, not so much exactly what you do or if you’re doing it perfectly. “It’s important to really be engaged in your body,” she says. “When you’re embodied, you’re more present in the world.”
Being in your body is how you tap into your innate knowing and feelings. “The wisdom is in the body,” she says. It’s just accessing it and bringing it forth.
**By Robin Fasano