Lift Yourself Up To Root Down: How Yoga Can Help You Stay Grounded

mountainsClose your eyes. Take a deep breath and clear your mind. Now imagine you are on top of a mountain. Look around you; you can see all that surrounds you. Look up and see an endless sky. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and feel it cleanse your entire being. Now imagine that you are the mountain. Reaching high up into the clouds, you are tall and mighty–yet you are seeded deep down into the Earth. You are a massive immovable force, strong yet harmless. Above you is a bright blue sky full of mystery and possibility; below you are tiny life forms, much less important than yourself. You acknowledge their existence and look kindly upon them yet they cannot harm you nor can they affect your wellbeing.

This is life–at least in the mind of a grounded individual, something which is highly attainable to us all. The practice of yoga and meditation helps keep us centered, balanced and grounded. What does this mean? Well, the grounded individual is part of the same world that we all live in. They live the same lives that we do, walk down the same streets, and encounter many of the same experiences on a daily basis. The biggest difference in the mind of a centered individual is that while they live in the same world as billions of others, they are unaffected by it. They see themselves in everything, whether it be the small flower beside the walkway or the grey cloud looming in the sky. This might sound a little confusing still, so to further explain let’s start from the beginning:

You are a mountain. You are the most important being in your environment. You are immovable. Winds may blow, rain may fall, even wildfires may threaten your environment; but you stand tall. Perhaps a fire has destroyed half of your precious trees leaving you bare and scarred–you worry not. You don’t dwell on the past, you don’t hope for the future; instead you stay present in your world and in touch with your life. Your world surrounds you, yet it does not affect you. An endless sky is above you full of dreams, hopes, aspirations; but you stay grounded, present in your environment. Your environment is ever-changing, yet you remain the same, true to yourself. This is the glimpse into the mind of a grounded individual.

You may be asking yourself how this pertains to the practice of yoga. What most don’t realize is that yoga is about 99% mental and 1% physical. Just about anyone can balance on one foot and call it a tree pose, but is it really yoga? Western culture has created a yoga culture that focuses almost entirely on the “asana” or physical practice of yoga and often leaves out the mental aspects. Too many yoga studios create a sequence of postures to teach their students that resembles glorified stretching and aerobics. While students may gain flexibility and strength, they are being shorted of the entire yoga experience.

In fact, in some practices of yoga, one does not even attempt any physical exercises. Bhakti yoga is a meditative practice mainly found in the Hindu culture as a loving devotion to God. Karma yoga is a mental discipline practice which also does not involve any asana practice. In fact, many longtime yoga devotees do not practice the asana yoga that we associate with in the Western world.

So how do we make sure we are getting the full benefit of our yoga practice? It wasn’t until I took my practice to another culture that I fully realized the capabilities of yoga, therefore revealing the mental and physical capabilities within myself. Perhaps I can provide some enlightenment to a shorter path by keeping a few things in mind:

Meditate. Before I began meditating, I thought exactly what most of you are thinking right now. When most of us think of meditation, we picture a person in a long robe with crossed legs chanting “ommmmmm.” This is another common misconception in the Western culture. Meditation can be practiced anywhere, at any time. Meditation can be as simple as taking a walk in the park or watching the sun set. Any time you have cleared your mind, are breathing consciously and are fully aware of your surroundings, you are practicing meditation. Studies have shown that those who meditate live longer and healthier lives. Devote an hour a day to yourself. Sit in your room and shut off the TV, silence is necessary to the beginner. Take a walk, clearing the mind of all trouble and worry, just be aware of what is around you.

Always live in the present. Too many of us waste time and energy living outside of the present. When we dwell on the past or hope for the future, we miss out on what the present moment has to offer. As Buddhist philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”

Be conscious of your breathing. It is said that every life is given a certain amount on breaths. We are given our first breath on the day we are born. We take our last breath on the day we die. Perhaps if we lengthen each breath between now and then we can live a longer life. Most of us spend the entirety of our lives breathing with only one-third of our lungs’ capacity. Deep breathing exercises can help with such ailments as asthma, anxiety, and many other respiratory and circulatory issues. For twenty minutes every day, just be conscious of your breathing. Take full, deep breaths expanding into the upper lungs so that the chest rises and exhale it all out. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of our bodies, oxygen is a fuel source–rid the body of waste by exhaling out every last bit of air from the lungs and replacing it with fresh air.

Remind yourself that YOU are the most important person in the world. Without you, your world would cease to exist. Do not mistake confidence and self-importance with arrogance. Be centered in yourself, not self-centered. You are the only one who can fully take care of yourself, so take the time to make yourself happy and healthy. No one can MAKE you feel a certain way, only you have the power over your emotions and wellbeing. Do not let the outside world affect you or bring you down.

To the grounded individual, yoga is not just a practice or exercise but a way of life. Enlightenment is a path fully attainable to any one that chooses to follow. Getting the mind in the right place can be the hardest thing to accomplish; but once it is done, the physical, emotional, and all other aspects of a successful life will surely fall into place.

Shanti.

Courtesy of Examiner.com.
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Comments

  1. Beautiful, as always; I meditate in early am and before I fall asleep, and as you suggested, I always focus on my breath—the life giving force.

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