During tough times, emotions can run high. You might feel anxious, helpless, lonely, afraid. The light at the end of the tunnel seems dim and far, maybe even unreachable. Your mind races, your body tenses, your spirit weakens. It feels as if you cannot breathe.
When faced with difficult circumstances, feeling all of the above (and more) is to be expected. It’s okay to not be okay. Yet it’s also important to stay grounded, because it allows you to process emotions and situations in a healthy way.
While there are many ways to stay grounded, I find that yoga is especially helpful in doing so because of its emphasis on breath and awareness. I chatted with Monika Bappert, teacher and studio manager at CorePower Yoga in Arlington Heights, IL, to get her thoughts on stay grounded during rough patches. Monika’s suggestions are simple practices that anyone can do, regardless of yoga experience.
1. Touch the earth
This tip for staying grounded is quite literal.
As studio manager, Monika helps train new teachers, often providing guidance on how to achieve fuller awareness in everyday life. “When talking about ways to be in the present moment, I often tell my new teachers to simply touch the earth,” she says. “So while you’re working, it might be good idea to ask yourself: are my feet touching the ground? Can I move my workspace to be closer to the ground for a little while?
Bringing awareness to the support of the ground beneath you is a common practice in yoga. The strength of the earth calls you to find strength in yourself, grounding your mind and body from within. It also reminds you to look for the constants — green grass, blue skies, fresh air — in the midst of uncertainty.
2. Find the stillness
“When it comes to staying grounded, I always think of legs-up-the-wall pose,” says Monika. “It’s simple and brings a bit of stillness to your day.”
Practicing legs-up-the-wall pose tends to calm the mind, since you’re giving yourself an opportunity to rest. Additionally, this pose can provide physical relief from sitting or standing for long periods of time.
To get into the pose, lie down next to a wall or door (or anything sturdy enough to hold the weight) and bring your legs up to rest on the surface. Monika even suggests just putting your legs straight up in the air. “You can do this for anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, or longer if it feels good for you.”
3. Reset with your breath
That feeling of not being able to breathe when stressed or anxious — in a sense, it’s not so far from the truth.
“Bringing awareness to your breath is a very basic idea, but one that’s also difficult,” Monika points out, “because we can go all day without even noticing it.” But if you only take a few minutes to do so, this fundamental aspect of yoga can effectively press your energy reset button.
“When you encounter challenges or new ways of being, you might need to reset your flow of energy,” Monika notes. “And you can do that by concentrating on your breath. Simply noticing where your inhale begins and your exhale ends, and vice versa.”
On a scientific level, intentional breathing (deep breathing) can activate the part of your nervous system that controls the rest and relax response. And on a more spiritual level, intentional breathing grounds you in the awe-inspiring functions that your body performs every single day.
“There are times in life when you might feel small, but noticing your breath can make you feel bigger. It reminds you that you are here for a reason, that you are here to do your part.”
4. Practice gratitude
You hear it a lot, that practicing gratitude can help you get through hard times. Sounds simple enough, but when your head is clouded with fear or anxiety, perhaps easier said than done. How can you go beyond the somewhat surface-level ‘too-blessed-to-be-stressed’ mentality and get to the root of what it means to be grateful?
Monika recommends thinking about gratitude as an opportunity for cherishing the seemingly mundane aspects of life. “It doesn’t always have to be about searching for a positive. On really tough days, the most meaningful moments we have could be drinking a refreshing glass of water or recognizing the ability to use our hands. Sometimes noticing what’s in front of you can lead to finding the positives.”
Ultimately, be true to yourself when figuring out how to stay grounded. “Take a moment to think about what you might need to do, or which direction you’d like to take — because it’s going to be different for everybody.”