The Science of Grounding
Yoga teachers (myself included) often talk about grounding. While it may seem like yoga mumble-jumble, increasingly scientists are studying the benefits of grounding for health. From a yoga perspective, grounding is the process of connecting with the earth both physically and spiritually.
On one level, grounding involves practicing yoga poses that facilitate a physical connection to Earth. This includes proper techniques to ensure a solid base, such as making sure all points of the feet are connected to the earth. Next, grounding connects us to the present moment. It pulls us into our physical experience of right now, and in the process, creates a sense of ease in the mind and stability in the body.
Finally, grounding (also known as earthing) is an emerging health strategy that can have profound implications for our health.
What is Earthing?
Earthing, is a therapeutic technique that involves doing activities that “ground” or electrically reconnect you to the earth. This practice relies on earthing science and grounding physics to explain how electrical charges from the earth can have positive effects on your body.
How does it work? Think about the electrical system in your home. The system must be grounded in order to protect your home, including the appliances and people in it, from surges in electricity. If lightning strikes or the power surges for any reason, it produces dangerously high voltages of electricity in your house’s electrical system. If your electrical system is grounded, all of that excess electricity will go into the earth — rather than frying everything connected to your system.
The same is true for your body. When you touch the ground, your body dissipates static electricity along with extraneous environmental electrical charges into the earth. Simultaneously, you receive a charge of energy in the form of free electrons and your body synchronizes with the natural frequencies of the earth.
As humans, when we are electrically grounded we feel more centered, balanced and strong and less stressed or agitated. We’re also healthier.
Earthing and Our Health
Scientists have begun to study this idea of grounding or “earthing” as a simple, natural, and accessible health strategy against chronic inflammation. They believe that the fabric or the body (or tissue tensegrity-matrix system), appears to serve as one of our primary antioxidant defense systems. As such, it is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface – the “battery” for all planetary life – to be optimally effective. Some of the benefits of earthing practices include:
- reduced inflammation
- reduced cortisol levels
- increased energy
- increased speed of healing
- decreased pain
- restored balance to body
- improved symptoms of chronic fatigue, anxiety & depression, sleep disorders, chronic pain, cardiovascular health
Proponents of earthing (including those who sell devices to facilitate the process) argue that we’ve become disconnected and lost our “electrical roots.” This disconnection, they conjecture, may be a seriously overlooked cause of human pain and discomfort and the steeply rising incidence of chronic illness worldwide. While the research on grounding for your health and well-being is relatively new, the practice is timeless.
Everyday Earthing Practices
Past societies went barefoot or wore leather footwear made from hides that allowed the energy from the Earth to rise up into their bodies. While we aren’t likely to begin abandoning our comfortable beds to sleep on the ground or throw out all our footwear, we can reconnect with the earth. Scientific research shows that it takes as little as 30 minutes of walking barefoot outside to begin to make internal changes to our bodies, including our stress levels.
I invite you to choose your own adventure when it comes to connecting with the Earth. Aim to practice on conductive surfaces such as soil, grass, sand or concrete (wood, asphalt and vinyl are not conductive).
To get you started, here are four (4) ways to practice Earthing:
1- Earth Walking
Weather permitting, go barefoot for a half-hour or so outside and see what a difference that makes on your pain or stress level. Savor the feeling of soft grass tickling your feet. Find a patch of dry, sun-warmed dirt and enjoy the sensation. If you’re near a beach, dig your toes in the sand. Even just standing or sitting on the warm earth will leave you feeling more grounded.
Keep in mind, if you aren’t used to walking barefoot, your feet may be tender. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for stray rocks, bees or other hazards.
When was the last time you laid on the ground? If the last time was in childhood, it’s time to get back to your roots. Get that skin-to-earth connection by laying in a wide space like a picnic area at a park or in the sand at the beach. Gaze at the clouds and enjoy the sounds of nature.
In the same vein, take your yoga practice outside. Find an even piece of ground where you can practice on the earth itself rather than on a yoga mat. Explore standing poses like Tree Pose (Trikonasana), Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) or Eagle (Garudasana). Seated poses such as Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana), Easy Seated Twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana) or Head-to-Knee Forward Fold (Janu Sirsasana) can be grounding too. Of course, be sure to finish your practice with a few minutes lying on the ground in Savasana.
3- Embrace Your Inner Mermaid (or Merman)
If you’re more of a beach bum, this one’s for you. Swimming in oceans, lakes, or rivers are perfect ways to ground yourself. Feel the cool water, soft sand, and even slimy rocks or smooth river stones to feel more connected to the Earth. Remember to always practice safety!
When cold or rainy weather prevent you from going outside, take a warm bath with Epsom salts. Salt baths simulate swimming in the ocean, which is one of the best ways to ground yourself. Salts, like water, have natural healing capabilities. When you combine them in a warm tub, you take cleansing to a new level, helping to heal and cleanse your mind and soul as well as your body.
4- Follow Your Breath
Bringing awareness to your breath can anchor you in the present moment. Start by closing your eyes. As you inhale, trace the air as it enters your nose and goes into your lungs. Then as you exhale, follow the sensation of air leaving your lungs and exiting through your nose or mouth. This grounding technique gets more effective with practice. The key is to observe the breath instead of forcing it with your mind. Let your body lead and your mind will follow.
So kick off your shoes and take a stroll in the grass or on a sandy beach. Or better yet, take your yoga practice outside to your deck or backyard. You’ll receive the added benefit of being more grounded and healthy. Be well!