Grounding – What It Is and Some Basic Practices

Grounding is to be present – fully – in one’s body – in connection with the earth, in connection with one’s environment, and feeling their support. It has many more meanings and foundations (e.g., being grounded as a child in contact with one’s caretaker, being grounded in one’s community). For now, let’s explore – not as newborns, but as people who can read this – the value, experience and power of grounding.

Grounding is not simply the grounding of one’s physical body with the earth, though that is one aspect of grounding.

When we are grounded, we can experience the vitality of who we are – both in our pleasures and our pains – and contain or express that vitality in ways that feel stable and in line with our sense of ourselves. We are rooted in our body, in the earth and have branches and leaves in our relationships with the environment, with others, and with the deeper core/essence of life.  Grounding has physical, emotional,  mental, spiritual, and interpersonal components.

So, how does one find one’s ground? Since we are often “up in our heads,” (that is, not in our immediate bodily experience) it’s often a good place to begin to (re)experience grounding through our physical bodies, and expand outward from there. We return to the foundation of our physical body so to speak.

Ground into your back – into and through the earth

  • Lie flat of the floor – Let yourself feel the support of the floor while you breathe gently. Let the floor support you. How much can you really give in  to that support?  Notice where you tend to “hold up” or maintain tension that keeps you from letting go into the earth. Stretch your right leg to make it longer than your left. Relax. Stretch your left leg in similar fashion. Continue to alternate right and left  for a minute or two.
  • Knees to chest – Continue to lie on the floor. Bring both knees to your chest. Push your right leg out, then left leg out while bringing your left back to your chest as though you were bicycling. Continue slowly for a minute or two.
  • Knees to chest, rocking – Continue to lie on the floor. With both knees drawn to your chest, rock back and forth to almost a sitting position. Play with this, trying different speeds, distance traveled, and so on.

These exercises help you ground into your back, to feel “backed up” or “held up.” As you move to grounding in an upright position, you bring with you this increased awareness of support from your body and the earth. Feeling this can make it easier to let down into your legs as you move up from the earth.

Moving up from the earth – still supported

  • Sitting, grab ankles – From a sitting position, legs straight out in front, reach as far down your legs as you can  and hold that position for a minute. Stay a bit longer if you like.
  • Squat, forward bend – Squat with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly straighten your legs by pushing  into and through your heels into the floor until you are in a standing position, with your torso hanging forward – letting your arms dangle as low as they naturally want to dangle.  Stay there for a couple of minutes. You may be holding your breath, so remember to to breathe fully into your belly.
  • Bear walk –  From this forward bend position – feet about shoulder-width apart  let your arms lower until you hands are flat on the floor ( spread your legs as much as needed) . Walk around the room in this position. Feel the stretch in your legs and back. Growl some, and then growl some more as you continue to walk. Feel the vibration of the growling in your torso and whole body.

Standing – still connected with and supported by the earth

  • Unfolding, roll up – Move into a crouched position, push your feet into the floor (really feel yourself pushing through your feet, and especially your heels) and uncurl upwards, pushing your pelvis under your back for support as you move into a standing position. Unroll upward one vertebra at a time. Let your head come up last as you unroll into a standing and aligned position.
  • Aligned in the standing and relaxed position– Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, balance your weight over the center of the arches of your feet (feel where it feels best to you), and find where your center of balance is. Breathe slowly and deeply, breathing into your belly. Really breathe fully into your whole body.  Imagine your bones balanced on top of each other, like dinner plates in a stack. You don’t have to hold yourself up. Your bones  – when aligned – hold you up naturally!

This is the basic grounded position in bioenergetic work. Become aware of your energy moving through your body. You might experience a tingling, or a subtle vibration in in your muscles, or have the sensation of streaming/flow through your
body. What sensations, emotions, thoughts, or images emerge as you stand in this aligned, grounded position? How do you experience this position?

Standing – grounded – and feeling some more energy

  • Reach for the sky – In a standing position, extend your right arm above your head, pushing the heel of your hand towards the ceiling and at the same time push your right heel into the floor, knee slightly bent. Breathe fully into your belly , including your lower belly. Hold this stretched position for up to a minute. Do the same on the left side. Repeat three times. If your limbs tremble, it’s fine. You body-mind is shaking out some chronic tension.
  • Shoulder shrug – Lift your shoulders up to your ears while you make fists and squeeze. Hold your shoulders and fists contracted in that way for a few seconds – and then let them drop. Ahh! Do this a few times. Imagine contracting all your bones up, then let go … as loose as you can let down. Remember to keep your legs and feet heavy and lowered into the floor. This exercise helps you to gently increase your energetic “charge.”

Both of these last two exercises gently increase your energy.  Feeling grounded, you can feel the increased charge while also having a sense that you can hold the energy – and that the earth and your grounded body support you in experiencing this energy. As you do this exercise,  let your boundary/sense of energy expand and just enjoy the increased charge.  Return to the aligned position. What do you notice? How do you feel differently now? How can you carry this sense of yourself into your day? If you’re doing these exercises at night, omit the final one – the shoulder shrug. Since it’s very charging,  it may interfere with sleep.

To be grounded is to feel your contact with the earth, to feel supported by the ground and your body – and through this to feel support for your self.  With this sense of being backed up, of being held up, with a sense of stability in the world, we can  claim the ground we stand upon if we face a challenge in our life. We can feel energy, and with awareness,  we can choose how and when to contain it and/or to express it.  From this grounded position, we can create choices that allow room to connect with and be with others in ways that honor our space and  let others be there as well.  From this grounded (and energized) place, we can be responsive to what is happening – neither ignoring our energy nor impulsively expressing  it – while remembering who we are.

Grounding is much more than this of course, but experiencing it through our body is an excellent place to start to discover the value and power of grounding.