At a time when we could all do with feeling more grounded and many of us are looking to our yoga practice to help provide support and stability in our lives, what happens if even the ground feels fundamentally unstable, and the earth feels ready to shift and crumble at any time?

Over the years my asana (physical) practice has become more and more about ‘grounding’.  I love the feeling of rooting down into the ground through the four corners of my feet, or spreading my fingers and feeling my hands press into the earth, so that I can feel the charge that comes back up, the space that comes into the rest of my body when I find that grounding energy, and the support of the solid ground when I finally release and surrender the weight of my body to it…but what happens when the ground no longer feels solid and stable beneath me?

As a teacher, my favourite instructions are probably to ‘root down into the ground’ or ‘surrender the weight of your body and let it release onto the ground’.  Indeed, my initial reaction to the turmoil, anxiety and stress caused by the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent ‘lockdown’ was to encourage my students to ‘ground’ themselves, thinking that the solidity and support of the ground would offer comfort and solace.  The problem was, that whenever I gave the suggestion to ‘feel the solid ground beneath you and then release into it’, all I could visualise were earthquakes and natural disasters!  The ground no longer felt solid beneath me (metaphorically at least) – it actually felt like it could tear apart and crumble away at any moment, and I felt like a fraud whenever I encouraged others to feel its stability.

For a while there I felt like I could no longer trust in this beloved source of stability, energy and spaciousness that was central to my yoga practice.   I spent several weeks struggling with this issue in my practice and in my teaching, and then my sister sent me a powerful Youtube talk by Ekhart Tolle (‘Staying Conscious in the Face of Adversity’ – see link below) and things began to make a little more sense…

In this talk Tolle speaks very simply about the importance of focussing on the PRESENT MOMENT, explaining that in this time of collective distress, most of what is creating our stress and anxiety is worrying about the future or regrets about the past i.e. stuff that we actually have little or no control over.  In particular we worry about what is going to happen to us, our loved ones, or this planet (future concerns), or we remember what we used to do but can no longer do, with sadness and regret (the past).  As we allow ourselves to become engrossed in these things we actually lose sight of the present moment which is the one place where we actually do have some control…we can choose how we hold ourselves, how we speak to our loved ones, whether we actually see the beauty in all the little things around us, how we spend our time.

And then it finally dawned on me… I have been allowing all the stress and turmoil around me to take me out of the present moment, my future worries and past regrets were making me feel as if the ground was literally falling apart beneath me when in actual fact, in this moment the physical ground IS solid and stable beneath me, I CAN release into its support, and I CAN root down into it and feel a rebound of its energy up through my body.  Of course, the ground may become unstable, there have always been volcanoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters over which we have little or no control, however the very essence of our yoga practice is to feel and appreciate what there is IN THIS MOMENT because nothing else really matters and nothing else can be certain.

It is an ongoing challenge but I am beginning to trust in the support of the ground once more and this unprecedented situation is teaching me more than ever to keep coming back to the present and appreciate what is here for me now, moment-to-moment, including being able to root down or release into the solidity of the ground beneath me.