As a kid, my parents almost never needed to ground me. I never climbed out my window to go to a party in the middle of the night. I never staggered home, slurring words and reeking of alcohol. I managed my own calendar of extra curricular activities and homework. I got good grades. I (mostly) did the household chores I was expected to do.
My mom felt compelled to ground me only once in my teen years as I can recall. I had accidentally left the clothes iron on in the basement. For a couple days. Definitely not a good idea. When my mother discovered this egregious oversight, she told me I was grounded for the weekend. I was stunned. I didn’t get grounded. I launched into my characteristically logical argument about how I knew that I needed to turn off the iron. This error did not warrant grounding, I argued ineffectively. I wasn’t trying to burn the house down in some fit of teenage rage. I simply forgot. But, my usual rational attempts to wear my mother down didn’t work. I was grounded for the weekend, forcing me to cancel some plans with new friends. I still have very little idea of what was going on in my mom’s head that time. Maybe I needed structure in a particular way at that moment. Maybe it was really more about my mom’s reaction to my newfound independence than what I had done. Either way, the incident sticks in my memory.
Almost 30 years later, I must have needed similar structure because last month my coach commanded me, far more emphatically than usual: “This month your assignment is to find something that grounds you.” In the past year, I have abruptly changed jobs, moved across three states, found another part-time job and started a consulting business. Not much stability there. I needed a “grounding.”
Crazy thing is that I really like the possibilities and new opportunities that change brings. I love the creativity that goes into building new things, meeting new people and nurturing new community. Change does have a dark side. Not having friends in a new place makes you very lonely when you want to see a movie, attend a festival or just hang out somewhere. You have to find all new “people” — doctors, massage therapist, hair stylist. That process is always riddled with awkward fits and starts that can sometimes end up in bad hair cuts and massages or, worse yet, living in a bad neighborhood or picking an inept doctor.
Liking the chaos and newness of change like I do, I must work really hard to ground myself. Otherwise, the chaos threatens to sweep me away and destroy the new foundations I am building. I rely heavily on the stability and calm of my yoga practice in these times. In the past year, one pose about which I’ve often thought is parivrtta trikonasana, or revolved triangle.
With legs scissored wide, front toes facing straight ahead, heel lined up with the arch of your back foot, angled at 45 degrees, your hips stay grounded and square, using the strength of your core to twist your upper body in the exact opposite direction of your legs. On good days, you’ll have enough stability and enough opening to get your shoulder blades firmly planted on your back and extend your hand to the sky.
My rookie mistake (that I made for years) involved extending my hand upwards before my lower body was grounded enough to enable the torso twist. If your feet are not firm on the ground, you wobble and fall out of the pose before you have the chance to really twist and extend to your full potential.
When confronted with change, or any difficult situation or conversation, I think of those moments when this pose has felt really good. I’ve actually visualized myself in the pose when having a difficult conversation with someone or even driving cross country to start life over again in a new place. This pose, which requires being twisted in two different directions, feels really good when when your hips and feet are planted very firmly, abdominals strongly twisting, head lining perfectly with a straight spine, enabling your shoulders to open, fingers gracefully pointing toward the sky. I strive (imperfectly) to be that grounded and that open. In life and on the mat.