“Meet me on the ground” is how my teacher usually, if not always, begins her slow flow and restorative yoga classes. While she’s made a name for herself by teaching alongside our “life partners,” in her words, the earth and the breath, she’s hardly the first yogi to be drawn to the earth at the beginning (and end) of practice. It’s natural, primal even, to want to mark the start of something in the tender arms of a mother. From the time we’re conceived through those first awkward years as Earth-dwellers, we require near-constant cradling from that wellspring of eternal support. While our baby-bodies may seem especially vulnerable compared to other species who get up and walk and start fending for themselves as soon as they’re born, wee-humans are quite resilient. The squishy, dense, and constantly-moist qualities of children are what help them develop strong connections to what can protect them—their families on the outside, and their immunity on the inside. We learn to stand, walk, and run—to leave the proverbial nest—because we are so rich in the earth element from day one.
For all the good things that the earth provides, though, it doesn’t always have the best reputation in our cultural discourse. Earthy (or kapha-type) beings might have more weight on them, might move a little more slowly, might be keen on unctuous and indulgent foods, might resist change—all the things our lean, mean, 24/7, start-up society has collectively moved away from. When the pandemic started last year, we were all forced onto the ground with very little warning, a jarring experience that has made the past year of stillness, confinement, and repetition deeply uncomfortable for many, at least some of the time if not all of the time. Grounding has felt like punishment for most; for some, like death and grief.
In Ayurveda, earth, along with water, is most prominent in spring. While we take it for granted most of the year, earth catches our attention like a shiny toy when it starts to peek out from under mounds of snow, saturated and humming with an underground reservoir of life that’s been germinating all winter long. It’s in the cries of birds in the morning, returning from their cold-weather vacation spots and ready to start new families in the still-bare branches of budding trees. It’s in the restlessness, the stirring, the longing for something new bursting from inside yourself; to me, it makes me want to reenact my favorite scene in The Scarlet Letter, when the scorned Hester Prynne removes her brand and headcap, sunlight streaming down through the forest canopy, and lets down her hair (which, after two years of no haircuts, I can actually do).
With the arrival of spring, and the turning of a whole year since that worldwide grounding, we therefore have a chance to repair our relationship with the earth, the mother from which we all came from and all return to in some form or another. Consider the ways that grounding has entered our vernacular in other ways: a plane is grounded when extreme weather makes it unsafe to fly; a live wire is grounded when it short circuits and threatens to send a dangerous shock through our system. We’ve been feeling unsafe, in a state of shock, for so long, and the earth has stayed with us this whole time. Now, when it seems we’ve reached a new threshold of instability, the earth has not only arrived, but is gushing and overflowing with enough support to shore us up from below so we can ride the waves of uncertainty into the future.
Staying low to the ground may not feel like a choice right now, but it can be. By deliberately grounding our bodies and our attention, remembering what it’s like to be held in our mother’s love, and working with the energy of the season, our nature can participate in the blooming that the nature around us puts on display every spring. Our lives may not be “normal,” and they may never be (and probably never were), but by remembering where we came from we at least know where we are.
When we all meet again, whenever and wherever it is, let’s make it on the ground. It’s not so bad down here.