yoga

Trust that the Ground is There

There have been a couple blog posts in the past where I mentioned not only my love for yoga, but especially Yoga with Adriene hosted by Adriene Mishler on both YouTube and her website Find What Feels Good—both of which I would recommend.

In taking her classes for the last year and a half or so, I have learned so much about breath, about my body and about yoga that have helped me feel inspired, empowered and calm in some very not so calm times.

One phrase that has stuck with me since the moment I first heard it, and has grown deeper and deeper in my mind ever since is: trust that the ground is there.

There have been many classes and videos I have watched of Adriene’s where she says this. Oftentimes it will come when our feet are stepped wide and we are moving into a new posture that requires our feet to be together.

“If you can,” Adriene will say, “don’t look down at your feet. Trust that the ground is there and step your feet together.”

At first, this seemed kind of funny to me. I mean, of course the ground is there. I could feel it underneath my feet. But then, when I heard her say this in the context of more complex poses, and I feared I might fall, I noticed my instinct to look down. To look at my feet to help me center myself and stay balanced. Because seeing the ground, seeing where I was standing, what I was doing, and checking back in with my foundation, helped me feel safe.

After a while however, when I would gain confidence in a pose, or practice consistently at the transitions between them, this need to look down went away. I felt stronger, more balanced, and I didn’t have to double check that my feet were sturdy, or that the ground was holding me up. I could just keep moving, having faith in my foundation and pursuing my next challenge.

In thinking about this outside of yoga, I noticed that there are so many habits I’ve formed in the hopes of holding my balance or keeping myself “safe”—whether it be from getting hurt, being rejected, embarrassing myself, standing out, or just making a mistake. I’ll stay quiet when I have something to say, I’ll stay home instead of going out, I’ll hide behind friends and family, and I’ll agree with opinions that don’t necessarily align with mine.

I will look down rather than look forward. I will hide in the safety of invisibility rather than allow my self-confidence and self-awareness to grow, because sometimes I still feel like I need to ask for permission or reassurance that who I am is okay; that I’m worthy of acceptance, success, love, etc; or that I can say no (or yes) to things without feeling lame or uncool or a burden on others’ fun/lives.

I am still learning to trust my foundation. That the ground is there. And that I can walk into each day knowing that I’ve put in a lot of work to discover who I am, why I’m here and what I’m capable of.

And while sometimes I still might fall—I might make a mistake or say the wrong thing or get hurt—the ground will catch me, and I can get up and try again. So I will continue to take steps forward, to try on new postures and poses without looking down, all the while growing and finding more balance on the ground I’m standing on.

Take time to find faith in your foundation. It is no easy feat to build, but it will only get stronger with time. Take deep breaths and, when you can, try not to look down. The ground is always there, and it will catch you if you fall.  In the meantime, let it build you up.

Two Things Yoga Has Taught Me This Year

A couple months ago I mentioned that I’d gotten into a yoga series called Home on the YouTube channel Yoga with Adrienne. Since then I’ve made it into a habit to do yoga almost every day and it has done wonders for me.

As of right now, with some restrictions still in place, I am still doing yoga at home. And while I look forward to being able to get back to in-person yoga classes, with all of the resources available online, I’m not really in any hurry. Plus, taking yoga classes at home—especially on YouTube—has been far easier to work into my everyday schedule. It doesn’t matter if I get off work a little late, or if I don’t have time in the morning, the classes are available at any time, and the only way to miss them is to…not do them. That being said however, it has helped me greatly to work them into a routine, and so every day, right around the 5 o’clock hour, I roll out my yoga mat and open my computer.

When I was doing Yoga with Adrienne’s Home series, I would always head straight to whichever numbered session was next, but right now I’m working through her June calendar, which is a 30 day series that pairs together her past videos around a common theme of courage. The classes in this series range from about 15 minutes to a full hour (the longer sessions usually falling on the weekends) and they have been a little more challenging. I am glad that I started with Home, as it is a very calming, introductory series, and it focuses a lot on finding peace, de-stressing, and breathing—which is exactly what I was looking for amongst, you know, the pandemic and all. But the courage series is much more about finding strength and challenging yourself.

Now, I know that people can be on the fence about yoga, that some people don’t think it’s a good workout, some people find it boring, and others think it’s too hard, or too intimidating. I also know that in the community of people who do yoga, there a wide variety of reasons why people like it. And while I could probably research and organize and present you with all the reasons why you should give it a shot, I’m just going to tell you the two main things that working through these two yoga series have helped me with:

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1) Breathing

I am telling you, breathing is underrated. Yes, we do it all the time without even thinking about it, but when you actually take the time to take deep breaths, it does wonders. I have felt less stressed, less anxious, and overall more peaceful, not only in my mind but in my body, my eating habits, and my day to day choices. There is a specific move that I learned in one of the Home sessions that has been my go to whenever I’m feeling stressed, angry, overwhelmed, or even just hunched over my computer too much, and in case you’re interested, it is as follows:

  • Sit up straight
  • Inhale and lift your shoulders up high towards your ears
  • Push your shoulders back as if you’re trying to make your shoulders blades touch
  • Then exhale your shoulders down.

I’d say on average, I do this about five times a day.

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2) Feeling in control

Exercise as a whole has always been appealing to me because it makes me feel strong. I have gone through good and bad phases with exercising solely to try and attain a certain body shape, but I have seen a marked difference in my mindset when I do yoga. These past few months, as I’ve taken class after class, I’ve started to notice how much more in tune I am with my body, from my skin to my muscles to my joints to my bones. In practicing each day, I have realized that when an instructor says to shift my hip back or to straighten through the crown of my head so my spine can be in a straight line, I can consciously make that small adjustment, and I can feel the difference when I do. That alone makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel like I am the one in control of my body, which I don’t know if I’ve ever felt before.

I think I always believed that once I liked the way my body looked, or once I could do hundreds of sit-ups or pull ups or whichever physical feat was on my mind at the time, then I would finally feel like I was in control. But I’ve found that in slowly gaining an understanding of the body and all the intricacies that make it move, I have also found a sense of control. On top of that, in focusing on the way all the parts of my body work together, I have found myself less focused on specific areas that I don’t like or want to change. I have found an appreciation for what my body can do and what it can learn, and I believe this will help me going forward in any kind of exercise I might do.

So, if you are on the fence about yoga, I’d say give it a go. It can be a workout, a relaxation technique, or just an excuse to make you breathe—sometimes it can be all three at once. Don’t demand too much of yourself, don’t worry about your starting point, and don’t be afraid to be still. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to push yourself, to fall or to step out of your comfort zone (I’m looking at you, “lion’s breath” and “happy baby” pose).

If you want to check out the Home series, you can find it here.

And if you want to check out the June “Courage” calendar, you can find it here. (The video for each day of the series is linked in the calendar.)